Yesterday, WinCo Foods expanded its April 10 ground beef recall to include all ground beef sold at all WinCo stores between March 26, 2010 and April 9, 2010.  The original recall included only ground beef sold at the Modesto, California store.  The recall was announced after testing at a private laboratory of retail samples of ground beef showed contamination by E. coli O157:H7.

The expanded recall occurs due to information suggesting that the original source of contamination was one of WinCo’s beef suppliers. 

As WinCo has cooperated with public health authorities, new information has come to light that potentially implicates WinCo’s ground beef suppliers. Acting on the advice of the California Department of Public Health and consistent with the ongoing investigation by USDA, WinCo is expanding its voluntary recall to include all fresh ground beef sold at any WinCo Foods store. A list of all WinCo Foods store locations follows in this announcement.

The product under recall is all fresh ground beef packed in styrofoam trays with a sale date of March 28, 2010 through April 9, 2010. Product should either be returned to the store for refund or be destroyed. No illnesses have been confirmed to date in connection with this recall.

This is not surprising information, and as usual, it prompts more questions than answers, including where the USDA is in all this (no announcement or comment on the expanded recall), and why WinCo did not take a more expansive approach to recall in the first place.  I cannot recall the last time an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak/recall associated with ground beef occurred because of contamination at retail.  They almost always happen because a retail seller, like WinCo, receives contaminated beef from a supplier.  If true, why did WinCo not originally recall all ground beef from that supplier during the relevant time frame? 

Again, more transparency is needed in foodpoisoning outbreaks and recalls, and the government needs to do a far better job of passing important information along to consumers