Consumer Law

To Avoid E. Coli Issues With Hamburger, Some Suppliers Simply Don't Test

Faced with the potential for a costly recall if their product is found to be contaminated with potentially deadly E. coli bacteria, some companies that supply the meat and fat from multiple sources that is often mixed together to create ground beef as cheaply as possible have found a simple solution:

They make a practice of not testing for E. coli contamination.

If retailers insist on product testing–as some, such as Costco, reportedly do–suppliers may refuse to continue selling to them, explains the New York Times in a magazine-length article about the safety of ground beef.

This can make it very difficult to identify and address problems at slaughterhouses that can make consumers very sick or even kill them.

Where the beef industry and government regulators have failed to address this food safety issue aggressively, plaintiff lawyers have stepped in, according to the newspaper.

However, there obviously is room for improvement earlier in the food production process: “A recent industry test in which spiked samples of meat were sent to independent laboratories used by food companies found that some missed the E. coli in as many as 80 percent of the samples,” the Times writes.

Related coverage:

ABA Journal: “Feds Consider Steady Diet of Regs to Fix U.S. Food Safety Network”

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