Kroger Asks Its Customers to Check for Recalled Ground BeefAug 20, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Kroger Grocery has asked its Indiana and Illinois customers to check for ground beef that might have been recently purchased from its stores. Kroger is particularly concerned with products with "sell by" dates of August 1 through August 16 because this ground beef is part of a recall of E. coli tainted meat announced by Nebraska Beef. Customers have been advised to return the ground beef to stores for a full refund or replacement. The recall involves 153 Kroger stores—Kroger, Scott’s, Owen’s, Hilander, and Pay Less—in Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. Some of the involved stores may have notified customers by placing signs with specific information in their meat departments.
Both Kroger and Nebraska have been involved in an ongoing, multi-state E. coli outbreak that has been linked to the illness and hospitalization of dozens. Nebraska Beef of Omaha is one of the main beef suppliers to Krogers and has been at the core of a number of other E. coli-related problems having recalled millions of pounds of beef in ongoing recalls since May; another recall was issued earlier this month for an additional 1.2 million pounds of beef.
According to the Washington Post, Nebraska Beef has received numerous sanitation violations over the past six years. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) shut down Nebraska Beef three times in 2002 and 2003 after discovering “feces on carcasses, water dripping off pipes onto meat, paint peeling onto equipment, and plugged-up meat wash sinks.” Nebraska Beef was written up no less than five times in 2004 and early 2005 for not removing brains or spinal cords from the food supply, as required. These parts are of particular concern because it is there that bovine spongiform encephalopathy—mad cow disease—can originate. In August 2006, US inspectors “threatened to suspend Nebraska Beef operations for not following requirements for controlling E. coli.” In 2006, “Minnesota health officials blamed Nebraska Beef for sickening 17 people who ate meatballs at a Minnesota church potluck. Several victims filed lawsuits against Nebraska Beef, including the family of a woman who died.”
Also, in 2003, the USDA went to court to try to shut down Nebraska Beef’s Omaha packing plant after citing it for numerous violations. In 2007, Nebraska Beef sued the USDA saying its inspectors had unfairly targeted it. Last month, A USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) investigation at two processing plants that collaborated with Nebraska Beef revealed E. coli contamination occurred because some production practices took place under “insanitary” conditions insufficient to prevent E. coli bacteria.
Strain O157:H7 of Escherichia coli is lethal and can cause blood poisoning, cystitis, septicemia, and death. In the US, E. coli is the leading cause of food-borne illness with about 73,000 people becoming infected and 61 people dying from E. coli each year. Last year alone, over 22 million pounds of beef and vegetables were recalled due to E. coli outbreaks. E. coli O157:H7 is extremely contagious; a small amount of bacteria can contaminate a large number of people. E. coli taints meat through improper butchering and processing practices and, once released in the body, produces a type of toxin that leads to severe bleeding and diarrhea, has been associated with kidney damage in young children, and can also lead to kidney failure and death. More and more, E. coli is turning up in produce and water.