Four different ground meat recalls in the past month add a new dimension to the current wave of food safety awareness brought on by the September outbreak of Listeria in cantaloupe.
Piggybacking on that publicity, the recalls of a combined total of 734,000 pounds of ground beef and turkey bring attention to E. coli and and salmonellaÂ and how theyâ€™re tested for; both bacteria can cause serious illness and at times death in those with weak immune systems.
â€œWeâ€™re going to recall any meat, poultry and processed-egg product when we have evidence it could harm consumers,â€ said a spokesperson with the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the government agency that worked on the recent Commercial Meat Company recallÂ of ground beef.
In the case of the Commercial recall, the problem was discovered through testing, but only after the meat had shipped to restaurants in California and Nevada.
Commercial Meat did not hold product pending test results and that resulted in this recall, said the spokesperson.
â€œThe thing about testing is that you can test and test and test and youâ€™re still going to have E. coli,â€ he said.
Other recalls of ground meat in the past 30 days include Cargillâ€™s second recall of ground turkey, ground beef by Palo Duro Meat, and Tyson Fresh Meatsâ€™s recall for ground beef, as well. Tyson declined to comment.
The FSIS said that there isnâ€™t necessarily an increase in ground meat recalls, but acknowledged an increase in consumer awareness of food safety and food borne illnesses.
The Cargill ground turkey recalls for salmonella (here and here) and FDAâ€™s cantaloupe recall for listeria have been the most prominent this year in terms of their large scale and subsequent headlines.
Not all strains of E.coli are currently tested, but the FSIS is expanding its testing. The FSIS will be able to accurately test products for Non-O157 E.coli, or Shiga Toxin E. coli, referred to as STEC, beginning in March 2012.
â€œWe have to make sure we put as many prevention-based measures in place to protect consumers,â€ said the FSIS spokesperson. â€œWe want to make sure prevention guides all of our actions.â€
Have you had to return recalled meat?