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Whole Foods Expands Beef Recall

Aug 14, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Whole Foods Market has expanded their recall of fresh ground beef to include additional states.  This announcement follows reports of many illnesses linked to E. coli-tainted beef purchased at the high-end natural market.  Illnesses have been reported in several states and Canada and the recall now includes stores in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, and Utah.  The recall involves fresh ground beef products sold between June 2nd and August 6th; Whole Food stores are offering full refunds.

In addition to the newly added states, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, Missouri, Wisconsin, Washington D.C., and Canada have been impacted by the outbreak.

The recalled beef came from Nebraska Beef Limited, the beef processor and supplier linked to the multi-state E. coli outbreak that first affected meat sold by Kroger’s Grocery.  Nebraska Beef has recalled millions of pounds of beef in ongoing recalls since May and issued another recall last week of an additional 1.2 million pounds of beef.  Whole Foods claims it did not know its vendor, Coleman Natural Foods, used Nebraska Beef—one of the nation’s largest meatpackers—to process its meat.  

The Washington Post reports this new strain is the same as that which sickened 31 people in 12 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada.  Meanwhile, this is not the first time Nebraska Beef has been in the epicenter of seriously questionable practices and food contamination illness and death.  According to the Washington Post, Nebraska Beef has received numerous sanitation violations over the past six years, for example:

  • 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.

Nebraska Beef’s trend of contamination, illnesses, and recalls continues.


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