Tyson Fresh Meat, Inc. can be added to the list of food manufacturers who have had to recall E. Coli tainted products. On Friday, the company issued a recall of 40,000 pounds of beef in 12 states. The company decided to take this action after samples tested at its Texas plant revealed E. Coli contamination.
The ground beef has a sell-by date of June 13, and was sold in prepackaged trays. The recalled meat was sold at Wal-Mart stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. The products involved in the recall include: 1.5 lb and 1.33 lb trays of “Angus Steak Burger All Natural 85/15 patties” and 2.25 lb and 5.5 lb trays of “73/27 All Natural Ground Beef, Carne Molida Des Res”. Each label bears the number “Est. 244S” inside the USDA inspection mark.
E. Coli is a potentially deadly bacteria that causes bloody diarrhea and dehydration, and possibly death. Young children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems face the most danger from E. Coli.
Tyson’s recall is only the latest in a string of E. Coli contamination incidents to be reported in the past year. But it is by no means the largest. On June 2, United Food Group issued a recall of 75,000 lbs of ground beef sold under the brands “Moran’s All Natural”, “Miller Meat Company”, “Stater Bros.”, “Inter-American Products, Inc.” and “Basha’s”. Since the first recall, United Food Group has expanded the recall twice. On June 6, it recalled an additional 445,000 lbs of meat, and then on June 9 it recalled a whopping 5 million lbs of ground beef. Though no illnesses have yet been reported in the Tyson recall, fourteen people in six states have become ill as a result of the United Foods contamination.
E-Coli is just one of several food borne illnesses that have been plaguing the US food supply. In the past several years, Americans have been deluged with reports of Salmonella in peanut butter, E-Coli tainted spinach, and green onions used at Chi Chi’s restaurants that were infected with Hepatitis A. According to the CDC, contaminated foods cause 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths each year.
Though no one reason explains all of these incidents, many point to lax oversight by the federal agencies meant to police food production. Chronic under-funding of both the FDA and USDA has been cited by numerous consumer groups as a huge contributor to food safety problems in the United States. For instance, a 2006 congressional fact sheet found that funding for the FDA fell short by $135 million. And the number of scientists employed by the FDA’s food division dropped from 1,000 to 800 in the past three years.