meatgrinder.bmpTwenty years is a long time for a law firm to focus exclusively on litigating just food cases, but the food industry seems hell-bent on keeping Marler Clark in business.  And with two more late-summer E. coli ground beef outbreaks to contend with (McNees Meats in Michigan, and JB Meats in Ohio), more lawsuits are certain to come. 

Ever wonder why it is so often ground beef that is implicated in E. coli outbreaks?  Because E. coli O157:H7 and other pathogenic E. coli can live in healthy cattle, it is ubiquitous in feedlots and slaughterhouses. During the slaughtering process, the contents of a cow’s intestines or fecal material present on the animal’s hide can contaminate meat, and because E. coli thrives in a warm, moist environment, any bacteria present on the meat’s surface quickly multiples.

All cuts of meat have the potential to become surface-contaminated with E. coli; however, intact cuts are cooked at a hot enough temperature to kill any bacteria present on the surface, and E. coli does not naturally penetrate the surface of meat. Cuts of meat that are mechanically tenderized (and are therefore not classified as intact) can become contaminated with E. coli throughout if the tenderizer carries E. coli from the surface of the meat to the interior. With ground beef, which is generally made from trim, the surface is distributed throughout the product during the grinding process. As contaminated meat is ground, more surface area is created, and additional meat becomes contaminated with E. coli. Meat from several cows can be ground together at multiple stages during processing, presenting the opportunity for E. coli from one cow to contaminate millions of pounds of ground beef and hamburgers.

Here are a few of the ground beef and red meat outbreaks we’ve been involved in on behalf of, all too often, kids and elderly folks laying in a hospital bed with failing kidneys due to hemolytic uremic syndrome: