Cargill Meat Solutions has issued another recall for their ground beef products for the second consecutive month. This recall, made due to potential E. coli contamination, resulted in more than 132,000 pounds of ground beef being taken out of grocery stores. According to the CDC, the E. coli outbreak has killed one person and sickened 17 other people.
The 18 people who were affected by this contamination were from four different states: Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts and Tennessee. Six people were hospitalized, including one individual who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (a type of kidney failure); the individual who died was from Florida.
According to the FDA, the recalled products have an “EST. 86R” label inside the USDA inspection mark. The agency also expressed concerns about the contaminated products still being in the fridges of consumers because the product was shipped to locations across the country.
The contaminated beef, which was originally produced and packaged on June 21, affects 12 different products such as ten-pound chubs of “Certified Angus Beef Chuck Ground Beef” and “Fire River Farms Classic Ground Beef.”
This recall comes just weeks after Cargill withdrew over 25,000 pounds of ground beef in late August. According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the E. coli contamination was originally discovered on August 22 after the company found that the beef products might have come in contact with another product that was presumed to be positive for E. coli.
This recall could result in a lot of backlash towards Cargill because they had identified the problem in August but failed to recall all or most of the potentially contaminated products until recently. According to Reuters, the meat company reached out to FSIS about the potential contamination in August. However, both organizations did not connect the contamination to the E. coli-related illnesses that affected the 18 victims. In fact, FSIS was notified about the 17 illnesses and one death on August 16 and they found that the illness onset dates for these victims ranged between July 5 to July 25. It was only after further investigation that FSIS found that these illnesses were directly related to Cargill Meat Solutions’ ground beef products.
With Cargill being associated with big food companies such as McDonald’s, they have a lot at stake when it comes to representing their brand. Having launched two recalls in the span of two months, the company’s food safety structure might be questioned by their clients. However, Cargill notified FSIS as soon as they found out that they had an E. coli contamination which might help them clear their name.
Within the past two months there have been five recalls made in the meat industry due to potential bacterial contamination. This speaks towards the need for better food safety precautions in meat producing facilities and there are some new food safety technologies that can solve this issue.
Recently, the FDA issued a GRAS notice to Micreos, a producer of targeted antibacterial products, for their PhageGuard-E product which they claim can combat E. coli O157 on food products. According to the company, PhageGuard-E effectively kills E. coli without affecting the taste, odor or texture of food products. Micreos has already confirmed partnerships with US meat processing companies and they plan to start using their unique product soon.
“Raw or undercooked ground meat products remain the primary source of STEC [Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli] concern and outbreaks,” said Bert de Vegt, managing director at Micreos Food Safety. “We’re pleased to be adding this tool to support the US meat processors in their constant quest to deliver safe food, and we look forward to working with the industry to implement the technology.”
In Cargill’s case, the company seems to be suffering due to a cross contamination issue. FSIS found that Cargill’s beef products came in contact with another product that turned out to be positive for E. coli. In fact, cross contamination is one of the leading causes of foodborne illness and disease, which is why it is so important to establish food safety communication between manufacturing and processing facilities.
So far there have been no recent reports of E. coli-related illnesses after the 18 cases discovered on August 16. Nevertheless, with Cargill being such a huge player in the food industry, it is likely that the company’s food safety standards and procedures will be watched closely for the time being.