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Kroger Expands its Recall to Over 20 States

Jul 8, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Kroger Grocery, the country’s largest grocery store, has expanded its beef recall to more than 20-states after meat from Nebraska Beef Ltd. suppliers was apparently contaminated with E. coli. The expanded recall includes ground beef sold at Fred Meyer, QFC, Ralphs, Smith's, Baker's, King Soopers, City Markets, Hilander, Owen's, Pay Less, and Scott's with overlapping sell-by dates from mid- May through mid-July.  Kroger is urging its customers to check the ground beef in their refrigerators and freezers to determine if the meat is covered by the recall.

The Kroger recall was issued when it first discovered that meat obtained from Nebraska Beef, Ltd., one of Kroger's suppliers, was linked to 41 E. coli illnesses and dozens of hospitalizations in Michigan and Ohio between May 31 and June 8.  Nebraska Beef recalled over five million pounds of beef in response.  Kroger said that, as a precaution, it removed all ground beef supplied by Nebraska Beef marked with sell-by dates of May 21 or later from stores.  "Ground beef in stores today comes from other suppliers not involved in the recall," Kroger spokeswoman Meghan Glynn said.

Eight confirmed and three suspected cases of E. coli have also turned up in Georgia.  Officials in that state are looking into links between the Georgia, Michigan, and Ohio illnesses.

Kroger is notifying customers about the expanded recall by placing signs in stores in meat departments and is also using its register receipt notification system.  Kroger can track customer purchases via customer loyalty cards.

Meanwhile, federal officials have harshly criticized Kroger meat supplier Nebraska Beef for first having shoddy controls in which E. coli would have been difficult to prevent and now, for delaying its response to the multi-state E. coli outbreaks.  Officials report that despite the fact that Nebraska Beef was advised of its potential link to the E. coli outbreak, it was delayed in its response to the matter.  Nebraska Beef was provided with reports that two samples at processors that bought the meat from Nebraska Beef may be tainted with E. coli in early June, but only acted on that information once it was discovered that the tainted meat generated from Nebraska Beef.

Kroger’s expanded recall includes ground beef products in Styrofoam tray packages wrapped in clear cellophane or purchased from an in-store service counter from the stores described below.  There are various “sell by” dates on the ground beef being recalled due to different Nebraska Beef production dates.

In 2003, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) attempted to close down the Nebraska Beef’s Omaha slaughtering plant after reporting several instances of unsanitary practices, fecal contamination, and condensation problems.  In 2006, Minnesota public heath and USDA officiais linked an E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak in ground beef that killed a Minnesota woman and sickened 17 others to Nebraska Beef.  In 2007, Nebraska Beef sued the USDA saying its inspectors had unfairly targeted it, but now, the latest Beef recall—of over five million pounds of beef—by Nebraska Beef follows the June 25 recall by Kroger Company.  To date, two lawsuits have been filed against Nebraska Beef and Kroger linked to E. Coli outbreak.


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