Beef Scares in 2010

Reader Contribution by Lindsey Bugbee
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Wikileaks, the BP Oil Spill and the trapped Chilean miners: 2010 was a year of intrigue, catastrophe and heart-warming rescue. But there were several other significant, yet not as highly publicized, events. 

To get to the meat of the matter … well, the matter was meat. The year kicked off with an 864,000 pound ground beef recall from Huntington Meat Packing Plant in January. Huntington sent E. coli-infected beef patties in bulk to hotels and restaurants. The number of people who became ill remains undetermined mainly because the patties were not distributed through supermarkets for domestic cooking.

Summer 2010 brought with it a massive recall from Valley Meat Co., who discovered that 1 million pounds of their meat were contaminated with E. coli bacteria. Seven people recorded symptoms of food poisoning after eating the meat. Nearly a month later, Cargill Meat Solutions recalled 8,500 pounds of ground beef. Three people got food poisoning from the Cargill patties.

And it’s important to note that “organic” isn’t synonymous with “safe.” In December 2010, First Class Foods issued a recall of 34,373 pounds of organic meat (California Firm Recalls Ground Beef Products Due to Possible E. coli Contamination). No illnesses were reported.

These recalls, along with unsettling reports surrounding the level of contaminants found in the meat we buy and the industry’s use of ammonia in hamburger to reduce pathogens, may just have been what prompted Grist readers to choose hamburger as the second scariest food of 2010 (“corn sugar” beat it by just over one point). We can only hope that these calamities have prompted beef companies to make a New Year’s resolution to distribute cleaner, safer meat.

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