E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Ground Beef Inspection

Posted on October 4, 2009 by


Today’s New York Times Health section published a story about a 22 year old dance instructor that became had a paralyzed after being stricken by E. coli in 2007. Officials traced the E.coli to a hamburger her family had eaten.

Did you eat a hamburger today? Here is what makes US Food Safety.com so unique.  We are NOT the government.  We don’t represent plaintiffs in lawsuits against food companies.  We report on food safety issues for consumers. Hamburger is a big one.  This article personalizes an ongoing ground beef problem.  Please read below.

Her name was Stephanie Smith. Her diarrhea turned bloody. Her kidneys shut down. Seizures knocked her unconscious. The convulsions grew so relentless that doctors had to put her in a coma for nine weeks. When she emerged, she could no longer walk. The affliction had ravaged her nervous system and left her paralyzed.

She was found to have a severe form of food-borne illness caused by E. coli, which Minnesota officials traced to the hamburger that her mother had grilled for their Sunday dinner in early fall 2007.

“I ask myself every day, ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why from a hamburger?’ “Ms. Smith said. In the simplest terms, she ran out of luck in a food-safety game of chance whose rules and risks are not widely known.

Yet tens of thousands of people are still sickened annually by E.coli, with hamburger being the biggest culprit. Ground beef has been blamed for 16 outbreaks in the last three years alone.

This summer, contamination led to the recall of beef from nearly 3,000 grocers in 41 states.


The New York Times traced the tainted hamburger.

Neither the system meant to make the meat safe, nor the meat itself, is what consumers have been led to believe.

What consumers don’t realize is that ground beef is not just a chunk of meat through he grinder. Records indicate that hamburger meat can come from various sources and diferent cows.

These cuts of meat are particularly vulnerable to E. coli contamination.

There is no federal requirement for grinders to test their ingredients for the E.coli.

Cargill made the hamburgers “American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties” yet, confidential grinding logs and other Cargill records show that the hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin.

To make matters more confusing, the ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria.

Using a combination of sources — a practice followed by most large producers of fresh and packaged hamburger — allowed Cargill to spend about 25 percent less than it would have for cuts of whole meat.

Now we know how Cargill saves money and they are not alone. Most meat companies, rely on its suppliers to check for the bacteria and does its own testing only after the ingredients are ground together.

Unwritten agreements between some companies appear to stand in the way of ingredient testing. Many big slaughterhouses will sell only to grinders who agree not to test their shipments for E. coli, according to officials at two large grinding companies. Slaughterhouses fear that one grinder’s discovery of E. coli will set off a RECALL of ingredients they sold to others.

USFoodSafety.com warned consumers months ago. Were you listening?  Look at the website. htttp://www.usfoodsafety.com. Be smart and look in your freezer. Don’t get sick needlessly.

Portions: New York Times

Posted in: Family safety