Full disclosure and the timely dissemination of information is a critical component to protecting public health, particularly in the setting of a ground beef E. coli outbreak. And Glenn’s Market in Watertown, Wisconsin is at the center of one right now.
Company approaches differ wildly when it comes to informing the public, but Glenn’s has done an admirable job of being up front about what is going on with its ground beef. The same day that the USDA-FSIS issued its release, Glenn’s issued one too and put it front and center on its own website–not buried in some hard-to-find link.
It is also admirable that Glenn’s apparently has adequate record keeping and grind logs to be able to inform the public and FSIS of the specific timeframe that the E. coli O157:H7 contaminated ground beef was produced (“Fresh Ground Round, Fresh Ground Chuck and Fresh Ground Beef from the morning grind of December 22, 2012 – January 4, 2013”).
What we all should take issue with, however, is the rather reckless statement that follows on the heels of all of this positive PR and information. Glenn’s somehow thought that it was OK to tell its customers to go ahead and consume potentially E. coli laden ground beef as long as they cook it to 160. True enough, 160 is the kill temp for E. coli O157:H7, but ground beef containing this bacteria is a ticking time bomb even if the stuff is handled “right.” And beef companies have plenty of data on normal consumer behaviors, such that they should not be advising people to go ahead and eat something known to be contaminated by E. coli O157:H7.