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E-Coli Contaminated Meat Spurs the Largest Recall in Over a Decade

Submitted by jrlaw on Mar 9th, 2009

The over 21 million pounds of Topps frozen ground beef recall has caused greater than normal concern that E. coli-tainted meat is a major threat. In the late 1990s the meat-processing industry initiated regulations to prevent dangerous bacteria from making its way to grocery store shelves after E. coli bacteria had become a major threat.

The Topps Meat Company frozen ground beef recall was the largest meat recall in a decade. The last such massive recall occurred in 1997, when Hudson Foods recalled 25 million pounds of ground beef. Following several meat-related E. coli outbreaks in the 1990s, the industry instituted new safety policies that greatly reduced bacterial contamination in meat products.

More concerning than this massive recall, the American Meat Institute studies show E. Coli-contaminated mean has increased significantly over the last three years. The Topps meat recall was one of only several E. coli-related recalls initiated this year. In August, Interstate Meats of Oregon issued a recall for more than 41,000 pounds of ground beef that was linked to an outbreak of E. coli poisoning in the Pacific Northwest. In June, United Food Group also recalled 5 million pounds of meat. That recall was followed by another that involved 40,000 pounds of E. coli-tainted beef products produced by Tyson Fresh Meat, Inc.

No one knows where the recent spike in E. coli contaminated meat initiated, the USDA inspection of the Topps Meat Company processing plant may have found one source of the problem. Beef grinding operations there were suspended after the USDA inspectors found that the company had inadequate controls to prevent bacterial contamination. The only recourse mandated was that the Topps Meat Company create a plan to prevent future contaminations.