Nebraska Beef Recalls Tons of Meat Tied to Kroger E. Coli Outbreak

Amid mounting lawsuits over a multi-state <"">E. coli contamination, Nebraska Beef Ltd. is recalling over 265 tons of meat used in the ground beef suspected of the E. coli contaminated that caused at least 40 illnesses in Michigan and Ohio.  Nebraska Beef and Kroger have received the strongest recall rating—Class I—by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).  Class I recalls mean the product involved carries a high health risk.

On Friday, the FSIS issued an enforcement notice to Nebraska Beef for alleged violations of proper food safety practices.  FSIS spokeswoman Amanda Eamich said the company has until today to respond.  “They need to respond to the notice with a comprehensive corrective action plan,” she said. “If they fail to do so, FSIS withholds the right to suspend the assignment of inspectors, which effectively stops operations.”

Nebraska Beef sells boxed meat cuts that are normally turned into ground beef, according to its legal counsel who said Nebraska Beef had “no statement at this point” about how E. coli 0157:H7 may have gotten into its product and adding that Nebraska Beef stopped in-house E. coli testing Friday and began sending meat to an independent lab, Midwest Laboratories in Omaha.  Nebraska Beef is recalling specific meat products with production dates of May 16, May 19, June 9, June 17, and June 24, FSIS reported.  On June 25, Kroger initiated a voluntary recall of all ground beef sold between May 21 and June 8 at stores in Michigan and Columbus and Toledo, Ohio.

Meanwhile, lawsuits against Kroger Company grocery store and its beef supplier—now named as Nebraska Beef—are beginning to be filed in response to the multi-state E. coli poisoning.  Amanda Adam claims to have been sickened with E. coli and is seeking at least $25,000 in damages.  Zachery Everhart, also sickened, is planning on filing a product liability claim against Kroger and its beef supplier.  Everhart said that he wants his medical bills paid for and is looking to send a message to those who sell, prepare, and process ground beef to pay closer attention to how they clean the food they sell.

It was only after health department announcements that a two-state E. coli outbreak was linked to its tainted beef did Kroger’s finally issue a recall, despite growing evidence pointing to its meat as having poisoned dozens.  All those stricken have been infected with the same strain of E. coli as that found in the contaminated Kroger meat and include at least 14 hospitalizations, with one patient developing hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure.

Kroger was involved in at least four prior ground beef recalls involving meat suppliers and processors.  In July 2002, Kroger recalled all of its ground beef products because one of its suppliers, ConAgra Beef, discovered E. coli in a sample of its meat.  In August 2001 and December 2000, Kroger recalled ground beef because meat from American Foods Group Inc. had the same strain of bacteria.  Immediately following the 2001 recall, Kroger recalled ground beef after IBP Inc. found E. coli in some of its meat products.

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