The last two weeks have been like a rollercoaster ride for our federal food safety agencies, some large retailers and wholesalers and most importantly for some, food manufacturers. It all started last week with the second largest beef recall in the history of the United States. Topps Meat Co. recalled close to 22 million pounds of its ground beef patties because they were contaminated with E. Coli. Later last week, Cargill Inc. recalled about 850,000 ground beef patties distributed through the wholesale chain, Sam’s Club, again because of E. Coli contamination.
On Tuesday, ConAgra Foods, the company you may remember from last year’s recall of salmonella-tainted peanut butter that sickened hundreds and killed several across the nation, announced that it is now recalling Banquet brand chicken pot pies – again, for salmonella contamination. This contamination is being linked to 139 cases of salmonella poisoning in 30 states. ConAgra has now stopped production in its Missouri plant that makes these pot pies.
Topps is already facing two lawsuits – one from an Upstate New York girl and her family. Four children were sickened as a result of the food poisoning from Topps’ meat and had to be hospitalized. Another lawsuit seeks class-action status asking others who have been affected by the tainted meat to join in. What effect has this recall had on Topps? The company has shut down and their 80 or so employees have lost their jobs. Food safety agencies that inspected Topps’ production facility found that not enough measures had been taken to prevent the contamination that occurred. Topps supplied its beef to a wide range of organizations – from restaurants to schools.
According to a recent article by the Center for Science in Public Interest and a study by the U.S. Center for Disease Control, Salmonella and E. Coli cases rose by 50 percent since 2004. What’s the reason for this spike? It appears to me that federal food safety agencies are failing in their responsibilities to protect the people of this country from food-borne illnesses. Consider the number of outbreaks we’ve seen in the last year and a half – spinach, tomatoes, peanut butter, pet food and now beef. Even the Government Accountability Office (GAO) put food safety on the list of high risk programs that are failing and need to be reformed.
Meanwhile citizens who pay the price for the callousness of manufacturers and lack of inspections with their own health and in some cases, their lives, will have no other resort but to go to the courts for justice and compensation. If you or a loved one has been the victim of food poisoning, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to see if you have a case.