At least when Nestle USA announced that it was recalling all its Toll House cookie products, the public pretty much knew which retailers were involved. Every retail grocery in the country provides generous space for Nestle products.

Nestle is currently at the center of the largest E. coli recall and largest E. coli outbreak in the country, and one-by-one the victims and their families are filing lawsuits against the cookie giant. The deadly E. coli O157:H7 with a particular DNA fingerprint has linked 69 people in 29 states with the apparent cookie dough contamination.

Nestle today is getting some competition from beef as the JBS Swift Company recall of four days ago has been increased to 380,000 pounds, up from 41,280 pounds.

Contamination from E. coli O157:H7 at its Greeley, CO processing plant has now linked JBS with an ongoing investigation into 24 illnesses in multiple states by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (CDC)

With the JBS, there are currently seven beef recalls due to E. coli O157:H7 contamination according to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  

When a meat processor recalls its beef, the information is not much use to consumers unless they are told which retailers and restaurants are selling the product.   Time and time again, food safety advocates have found “recalled” items still on the shelves long after retailers were told to remove them.

A year ago, FSIS announced it would at least identify which retailers are involved in a recall within a three to ten day period. That new policy appears to be getting hit and miss attention this year by FSIS.

Andrew Shain at The State newspaper in South Carolina unsuccessfully attempted last Friday to get a list of retailers in that state who carry meat from JBS Swift Beef Company’s Colorado plant.

A JBS official told The State processors and stores did not want their names released and would “contact the public as they see fit.”

The JBS recall due to contamination by E. coli O157:H7 is the seventh to occur since May 4th.   It was announced on June 24th, and no list of retailers has yet been made available by FSIS.

It came just two days after Chicago’s International Meat Company on June 22nd recalled 6,152 pounds of ground beef products believed to be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7.   That meat went to other distributors and restaurants in the Chicago area, so FSIS says there will be no list of retailers. (Restaurants must not be retailers, according to FSIS).

The 75 pounds of fresh beef trim products recalled on June 8th by Snow Creek Meat Processing in Seneca, SC all went to the Amazing Savings Stores in Asheville and Black Mountain, NC.   The retailers were identified on the same day by FSIS.

It took two days after the June 2nd recall by Portland, OR-based SP Provisions of almost 40,000 pounds of E. coli-tainted ground products for FSIS to finger Riley’s Market in Bend, OR as the only retailer involved.

On May 21st, Coal Valley, IL-based Valley Meats LLC recalled 95,898 pounds of ground beef found contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 after an outbreak was discovered by the Ohio Health Department.   Its by far the biggest recall of 2009, but FSIS claims no retailers are involved.   It seems all the meat went to what FSIS said were “various consignees nationwide.”

The May 12th recall by Bob’s Food City in Hot Springs, AK of 375 pounds of ground beef products thought to be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 involved only that retail outlet and FSIS said so on the same day.

May 4th was the date of the first E. coli recall of both 2009 and the new Obama Administration.    FSIS said none of the 4,663 pounds of ground beef products contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 went to retailers, only western New York restaurants.  Alex & George Wholesale, Inc. of Rochester, NY issued the recall.

And with the sudden huge expansion of the size of the JBS recall, there are now a total of 527,061 pounds of bad beef out there. All seven of the E. coli O157:H7 beef recalls present a “High” health risk to the American public. 

All are rated as “Class 1” recalls.   The Valley Meats recall is linked to the E. coli outbreak cluster identified by the Ohio Health Department, and the JBS expanded recall is now connected to the multiple-state outbreak CDC is now investigating.

As for FSIS, the agency has released a PDF file with a 104-page list of all the JBS products subject to the recall, but no list of the retailers or restaurants receiving the bad meat processed on a single day last April 21.   (On its own, Smith’s Foods has said it retails JBS products.)

It remains to be seen whether FSIS will "see fit" to tell the public what they really need to know.