Authorities Have Not Revealed Which Restaurants Received The Tainted Steaks

On Christmas eve the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a notice that National Steak and Poultry (NSP) was recalling 248,000 pounds of beef steaks contaminated with the highly virulent pathogen E. coli O157:H7. The steaks were mechanically tenderized “non-intact steaks”, and were shipped to restaurants nationwide. Although the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) working with state health and agriculture departments linked the steaks to NSP while investigating illnesses in restaurants six states—Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota, and Washington—a list detailing the distribution of the steaks has not been released by FSIS, CDC or NSP.

“When it involves E. coli O157:H7, just issuing a recall isn’t remotely enough action to protect consumers,” said Bill Marler, a Seattle-based, food safety advocate and attorney. “The recall was issued on a holiday, with illnesses across the country and only a vague reference to meat being shipped to restaurants nationwide. The FSIS, CDC and NSP must know which restaurants it went to and the public deserves to know too.”

Food Safety News reported this morning that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was warned in June 2009 of the risk of “non-intact steaks (blade tenderized prior to further processing),” or mechanically tenderized meat, by a coalition of food safety advocates. Secretary Vilsack was specifically warned that outbreaks associated with mechanically tenderized meat products have been on the rise. Beef products, like steaks and roasts, that are tenderized by piercing the surface with small needles or blades, create a risk that any pathogens on the surface of the meat would be transferred to the interior of the product, where they might not be eliminated when the product was cooked.

“Information on the distribution of these steaks have been withheld to protect whom?” continued Marler. “We need to know, who is looking out for the consumer? How will someone know if the restaurant they patronized received the meat or even knows about the recall? How will the management of the restaurants know that it should return the product and not serve it. This information is available, and getting it out quickly is absolutely critical to public health.”

ABOUT MARLER CLARK: Marler Clark has represented victims of every major food borne illness outbreak since 1993. The firm’s attorneys have litigated high-profile food poisoning cases against such companies as ConAgra, Dole, Cargill, Wendy’s, Chili’s, Chi-Chi’s, and Jack in the Box, securing over $500,000,000 for their clients.