Wright County Egg’s August 13 and 18 recall, and Hillandale Farms’ August 20 recall, of over half a billion eggs combined, and the Salmonella outbreak that has occurred in the collective recalls’ wake, have dominated the food safety news lately. With over 1,000 illnesses and a company at the epicenter with a shoddy safety and health record, that is no surprise. But another point is worthy of note, or maybe the fortunate lack of a point. Although they had a rocky start to 2010, recalling almost 6,000,000 pounds of beef products, meat companies have avoided any major E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks through, almost, the end of summer.
The last 3 years were not good for the industry. In 2007, beef companies recalled over twenty-nine million pounds of meat, including Cargill’s recall of nearly one million pounds of hamburger patties, one of which sickened Stephanie Smith. 2008 saw at least sixteen recalls of beef products, totaling at least 2,361,295 pounds of meat. And in 2009, beef companies recalled almost 2 million pounds of meat due to various contamination and processing problems.
Thus, the almost total absence of E. coli O157 in beef this summer is an accomplishment that should be applauded, and hopefully is not just attributable to pure luck, but represents a committment to meaningful manufacturing advances that have truly helped to reduce the bacterial load on retail meat products.