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From: TSS (
Date: November 18, 2004 at 2:49 pm PST

In Reply to: BSE MAD COW USA 'INCONCLUSIVE' TEST REPORTED NOV. 18, 2004 posted by TSS on November 18, 2004 at 6:39 am:

-------- Original Message --------
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 2004 16:44:06 -0600
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr."
Reply-To: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
References: <> <>

##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #####################

Greetings list members,

> However, it is important
> to note, that this animal did not enter the food or feed chain.

>> well, there coming out of the shoot claiming this cow did not enter
>> the food chain. boy, have we heard this a time or two before...TSS

THOUGHT some might like to go over the Wash. cow and it's cohorts that
never went into the food chain either, or at least that is what they
told us;

May-June 2004 Issue

FDA Investigators Respond to Mad Cow Emergency

By Linda Bren

When Food and Drug Administration investigator Scott Nabe arrived at the
Columbia River Gorge that separates Washington and Oregon in December
2003, he wasn't paying attention to the stunning beauty described by
explorers Lewis and Clark nearly 200 years earlier.

All he could think about was keeping his car on the icy road so he could
get to his destination. His mission: To make sure that no parts of a
"mad cow" got into the food supply for people or animals.

On Dec. 23, 2003, the FDA was alerted to the first case of bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), known as mad cow disease, in the United
States. The infected cow from a farm in Washington had been slaughtered
two weeks earlier and the meat and byproducts from the animal traveled
the normal slaughtering path: The edible parts went to meat processors
for making into hamburgers and steaks, while the inedible parts went to
renderers to grind into meal for animal feed and fat for soap and other
products. The brain went to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for BSE testing.

Once informed that the tissue from the cow had tested positive, the FDA
took immediate action, mobilizing teams of investigators in the agency's
Seattle district. The FDA, along with the USDA, had to ensure recovery
and destruction of as many parts of the infected cow as possible.

Nabe and fellow FDA investigator John Emmert made up one of the
two-member teams who responded to the emergency. The teams traveled
through three states-Washington, Oregon, and Idaho-to recover the cow
and its byproducts. Logging more than 1,400 miles in one week, Nabe and
Emmert drove through ice- and snow-covered mountain passes to track down
the byproducts. The FDA teams encountered "some of the worst winter
weather in a long time, with much snow, ice, and extremely dangerous
fog," says Celeste Corcoran, the director of investigations in the FDA's
Seattle district.

Investigators canceled holiday plans and leave when they were notified
of the emergency. John Banks, who was off-duty in Boise, Idaho, received
a call from his supervisor the night of Dec. 23. Early the next morning,
he was on a flight to Spokane, Wash., and he and fellow investigator
Gordon Wales were inspecting a rendering plant by 9:30 a.m.

FDA investigator Dawn Barkans got the word three days later in the
middle of a move from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, Wash. "I dropped my
mom, daughter, and fellow movers off at the new house and drove to
Tacoma to meet up with my team member," she says.

Before the investigation was completed, 30 FDA employees in the Seattle
area and a number of state inspectors from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho
had become involved. The response was tremendous, says Steven Solomon,
D.V.M., deputy director of the FDA's Office of Regional Operations. "The
Seattle district had more volunteers than they could use. They did an
outstanding job of responding quickly and efficiently to address the
finding of the first BSE cow in the United States."

The Next 32 Days

For the BSE investigators, the next 32 days were filled with long hours,
little sleep, hazardous driving conditions, isolated motels, and
truck-stop dining on holidays when no other businesses were open. During
the day, they trudged through snow, mud, gravel, and grease to inspect
feed mills, farms, calf feeder lots, slaughterhouses, meat processors,
hide recyclers, tanneries, and grocery stores. At night, they took part
in conference calls, wrote out notes from the day's work, and
communicated summaries of their findings to Corcoran.

Phone calls went back and forth all night and into the early morning
hours to resolve questions about the information provided. "We knew
everyone was relying heavily on our information and wanted it to be
absolutely accurate," says Corcoran, who orchestrated the local incident
command investigation from the FDA office in Seattle and provided
frequent update reports to the Emergency Operations Center at FDA
headquarters in Rockville, Md.

About 96 hours after the FDA was notified of the BSE-infected cow, the
agency was able to announce that all of the potentially infectious
rendered byproducts of the cow had been found and contained. But the
investigation continued as additional firms were inspected and
reinspected to confirm that all products were accounted for. FDA
investigators also assisted the USDA in meat recall checks at retail
stores, and they witnessed the destruction of meat and byproducts at

By day 32 of the emergency response, about 2,000 tons of cattle
byproducts were being safely disposed of. No other BSE-infected cows
were found, but if feed or other products had even a small possibility
of being mixed with parts of the BSE-positive cow, they were destroyed.
"There was extensive commingling with rendered products from other
animals," says Solomon. "For safety assurance, we wanted to make sure we
captured all the materials bracketed within the time period when
infected material may have been processed."

Challenging Conditions

FDA investigators traced potentially contaminated products to renderers,
grocery stores, meat suppliers, and even a hide recycler. "Early on we
vowed we would track 'everything but the moo' of the BSE cow," says
Corcoran. "We wanted to ensure that no parts of the hide from the cow,
not even any flesh scrapings, could have been diverted to animal feed or
other use."

The investigators worked painstakingly to collect the information they
needed from worried, but cooperative, business owners.

"The owners felt this was the end to their livelihood," says William
Hughes, who investigated a meat processing plant in Washington. "The
business they built up from scratch over the years was destroyed through
no fault of their own." As one owner was copying records requested by
Hughes, "she was very distraught," he says. "They had a lot of raw meat
product that they needed to have in a cooler. They didn't have space for
the meat at their facilities, and no one wanted to touch it." Not only
did other companies not want to handle the product, they didn't want to
be associated with the name of the meat processor, says Hughes. "It was

While the USDA tracked the finished meat products for human consumption,
the FDA tracked the inedible material generated by grocery stores, such
as scraps produced from grinding up meat for ground beef. The challenge
here was "not a real consistency among grocery stores, or even among
chains," says Emmert, who investigated several grocery stores in Oregon.
"Some stores would save the scraps to give to an old customer for feed.
Others would throw the scraps in barrels for a rendering firm to pick
up, and some would throw them in the garbage to go to a landfill."
Emmert had to make sure the scraps were held and disposed of properly to
prevent their entry into the human or animal food chain.

"I had a deep-felt sense of pride in who I was working for and what we
were trying to accomplish," says Emmert. "The grocery stores acted
quickly and more than necessary to protect their customers and the
public." The USDA had given the stores specific code dates and lot
numbers of the products that they needed to remove from the shelves.
"But they didn't take any chances," says Emmert. "They just pulled
everything and emptied the shelves quickly."

"Members of the Seattle District Office and state inspectors from
Washington, Oregon, and Idaho worked together with unceasing and
extraordinary dedication for this national emergency," says Corcoran.

It was never a question of how much effort it took, says Barkans. "It
just always came back to ... What do we need to do to get the job done
and ensure that the public is protected?"

NOW, for the rest of the story;

QFC sued over mad cow case

Grocer negligently exposed them to beef, family claims

Friday, March 5, 2004


An Eastside family who says they ate beef linked to the nation's only
known case of mad cow disease yesterday filed a class-action lawsuit
against QFC, claiming the grocery store chain negligently exposed them
and others to "highly hazardous" meat and did not properly notify them
that they had bought it.

Attorneys for Jill Crowson, a 52-year-old interior designer from Clyde
Hill, filed the lawsuit in King County Superior Court on behalf of her
family and possibly hundreds of other customers who unwittingly bought
and consumed beef potentially exposed to mad cow disease.

"I was pretty upset about it," Crowson said. "I've spent all of my kids'
lives trying to be a responsible parent for them to keep them safe. I
felt badly that the food I served could be harmful to their health."

The lawsuit is believed to be the first stemming from this country's
only confirmed case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform
encephalopathy, which was detected in a slaughtered Holstein from a
Yakima Valley ranch on Dec. 23.

Neither officials at Quality Food Centers' Bellevue headquarters, or
Kroger -- the company's Ohio-based corporate parent -- could be reached
for comment about the lawsuit yesterday.

The suit contends the family bought and later ate ground beef from their
local QFC that was part of a batch processed at Vern's Moses Lake Meats
on Dec. 9 and included meat from the diseased Holstein.

The beef was later shipped to wholesalers and retailers in Washington,
Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana and Nevada.

On Dec. 23 -- after government scientists confirmed the Holstein was
infected with BSE -- businesses began pulling potentially affected beef
from store shelves under a voluntary recall.

But the family's suit claims that, although QFC was aware of the recall
on Dec. 23, the store did not begin pulling the recalled beef from about
40 of its stores that carried it until Dec. 24.

The company also did not try to warn customers about the recalled beef
until Dec. 27 -- and only then with small, inconspicuous signs inside
the stores, the suit claims.

Steve Berman, the family's attorney, said the company had "a duty to
warn" consumers who bought the beef under terms of the Washington
Product Liability Act.

QFC could've easily notified customers by taking out TV, radio or
newspaper ads, or by tracking and notifying those who bought the beef
through customers' QFC Advantage Cards, Berman said.

At Berman's downtown Seattle firm yesterday, Crowson described how on
Dec. 22 and Dec. 23 -- the day of the recall -- she bought single
packages of "9 percent leanest ground beef" from her local QFC store at
Bellevue Village.

Crowson took the beef home, cooked it and made tacos one night and
spaghetti the next -- serving the dinners to herself; her daughter,
Laura, 22; son, Nicholas, 19; and her niece, Claire De Winter, 23.
Members of the family also ate leftovers from those meals for the next
several days, Crowson said.

"When the news about mad cow came out, I instantly became concerned,"
Crowson said. "But the initial stories didn't mention anything about
QFC, so I thought we were OK."

While shopping at the grocery store a few days later, Crowson said she
asked a store butcher whether QFC stores had sold any of the recalled
beef. The butcher assured her they had not, she said.

The family only learned QFC had sold any of the beef in question after
reading a news story Jan. 10 about a Mercer Island man who discovered
his family had eaten affected beef that he bought at a local QFC store,
Crowson said.

Crowson later called QFC and faxed the company a signed letter asking
that it track purchases made on her QFC Advantage Card -- a store
discount card issued to customers. On Jan. 12, the company notified
Crowson that the beef she bought and served to her family was, in fact,
part of the recalled batch, she said.

Scientists believe people who eat beef from infected cows can contract a
fatal form of the disease.

The family is "now burdened with the possibility that they presently
carry (the disease) that may have an incubation period of up to 30
years," the lawsuit says.

Lawyers for the family say they believe hundreds, if not thousands, of
QFC customers, and those of other stores, likely ate beef from the
recalled batch -- the reason why Berman filed their legal claim as a
class-action lawsuit. A USDA official this week said that up to 17,000
pounds of meat affected by the recall likely was eaten or thrown out by

Berman added that an investigator from his firm learned that QFC buys
beef for its "9 percent leanest ground beef" products in large tubs that
can weigh several hundred pounds, and then regrinds and packages the
meat for sale.

Because QFC stores regrind the beef before selling it, Berman contends
that makes the store a manufacturer responsible under the Washington
Product Liability Act for not selling any unsafe product.

Scientists believe people who eat beef from cows infected with BSE can
contract variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob, a fatal brain-wasting disease that
has been detected in about 150 people worldwide.

However, officials with the U.S. Agriculture Department have repeatedly
said the risk from eating muscle cuts from an infected cow -- the likely
cut of meat processed and sold for hamburger in the recalled batch -- is
extremely low.

Although Crowson said she tries not to "obsess over it," she is fearful
that her family could one day become sick.

"It's pretty scary," she said.

Because no medical test is available to determine whether a living
person is infected with the disease, the couple's "stress and fear
cannot be allayed," the lawsuit said.

The family seeks unspecified damages for emotional distress and medical
monitoring costs.

Crowson said her reason for bringing the lawsuit isn't about money. "The
more I've thought about this, the angrier I've gotten," she said.


QFCs Delayed Mad Cow Response Draws Lawsuit
Family claims QFC should have used customer database to warn those at
risk sooner

March 05, 2004

SEATTLE  A Bellevue, Wash. family today filed a proposed class-action
lawsuit against Quality Food Centers (QFC), a subsidiary of Kroger
(NYSE: KR), claiming the grocery store chain should have used
information gathered through its customer loyalty program to warn those
who purchased beef potentially tainted with mad cow disease.

The suit, filed in King County Superior Court, seeks to represent all
Washington residents who purchased the potentially tainted meat, and
asks the court to establish a medical monitoring fund.

Jill Crowson purchased the potentially tainted beef from a Bellevue QFC
on Dec. 22 and 23, and used her Advantage Card, QFCs customer loyalty
program. She served the meat to her husband over Dec. 25 and 26, and
later heard of the recall in the newspaper.

Steve Berman, the attorney representing the Crowsons, asserts that since
the company tracks purchases, it should have warned the Crowsons and
many other customers who purchased the beef at approximately 40 stores
across Washington.

If you lose your keys with an Advantage Card attached, QFC will return
them to you free of charge, said Berman. If they can contact you over
a lost set of car keys, why couldnt they contact you and tell you that
the beef you purchased could kill you?

QFC is among the large number of grocers that track customer purchases
through loyalty cards like the Advantage Card. Once a customer shares
contact information  including name, address and phone number  they
are given discounts on certain items.

Regardless of any discounts offered, the loyalty card tracks customers
every purchase and stores them in a central database, the complaint states.

We contend that QFC knew which Advantage Card customers purchased the
suspect meat, and could have easily called to warn them, said Berman.
Instead, QFC used a series of spurious excuses to hide their failure to

On Dec. 23, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ordered the recall of
approximately 10,410 pounds of raw beef that may have been infected with
bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which if consumed by humans can
lead to the always-fatal Cruetzfeldt-Jakobs Disease (vCJD).

According to the complaint, QFC at first mistakenly believed it did not
have any of the affected beef and took no action to remove the product
from its shelves. The store later removed the beef on Dec. 24, but then
did little to warn those who earlier purchased the meat, the suit claims.

It wasnt until Dec. 27 that the grocery chain posted small signs with
information about the recall, the complaint alleges.

The Crowsons contacted QFC when they suspected they had purchased the
potentially tainted meat, but QFC would not confirm their suspicions for
two more weeks, the suit states. According to Berman, the family had to
file a written request before QFC would confirm their fears.

According to health experts, Cruetzfeldt-Jakobs Disease can have an
incubation period of as long as 30 years. There is no test to determine
if infection took place after possible exposure, nor is there any
treatment once one is infected. The condition is always fatal.

If the court grants the suit class-action status, QFC would likely be
compelled to turn over the names of those who purchased the potentially
tainted beef.

The proposed class-action claims QFC violated provisions of the
Washington Product Liability Act by failing to give adequate warning to
consumers about the potentially dangerous meat.

The suit seeks unspecified damages for the plaintiffs, as well as the
establishment of a medical monitoring fund.

QFC's Delayed Mad Cow Response Draws Lawsuit

... subsidiary of Kroger , claiming the grocery store chain should ...
beef potentially tainted with "mad cow disease ... beef at approximately
40 stores across Washington. ... sff005.P2.03042004214558.03634.html - 9k -

040307 Woman Sues QFC Over Mad-Cow Recall
... Jakob disease, the
human form of mad-cow, from eating ... QFC is subject to the Washington
Product Liability ... been found in a slaughtered Yakima County dairy
cow. ... - 6k

Date: October 1, 2004 at 2:22 pm PST


Schwarzenegger Vetoes Meat Recall Disclosure Bill

Legislation Would Have Identified Stores that Received Contaminated Meat
and Poultry

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) vetoed a bill yesterday that would
have let Californians know whether theyve purchased contaminated meat
or poultry. The bill, SB 1585, would have ended a secrecy agreement
between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and California that
prevents the state from disclosing the names and locations of stores
that receive shipments of recalled meat.

Consumers have a right to know if they purchased recalled meat or
poultry, said Ken Kelly, Staff Attorney at the Center for Science in
the Public Interest (CSPI). Why force families to roll the dice when
they put food on the table? Governor Schwarzenegger prefers a
get-sick-first, ask-questions-later policy.

Earlier this year, California was one of several states that received
meat from the Washington State cow that tested positive for mad cow
disease. But because California is one of 12 states that have signed a
secrecy agreement with USDA, state health officials were prohibited from
identifying stores or restaurants that may have received beef from the
infected cow. Even recalled meat tainted with deadly E. coli 0157:H7
bacteria would be subject to the secrecy agreement, leaving consumers
uncertain as to whether the ground beef in their refrigerator were safe
to eat.

In his veto message, Governor Schwarzenegger indicated he would instruct
the states health department to renegotiate an agreement that would
allow USDA to share recall information with local public health
officials. But according to CSPI, even if USDA agreed to share recall
information with local officials, the local officials would be similarly
prohibited from disclosing names of retail outlets with consumers. In
August, CSPI urged USDA not to force states to sign any such secrecy
Federal and state government should be more concerned with protecting
consumers from unnecessary hospitalizations and deaths associated with
food-borne illness, and less concerned with protecting grocers and meat
producers from bad publicity, Kelly said.

USDA refused to release mad cow records

By Steve Mitchell
United Press International
Published 12/24/2003 12:50 PM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- The United States Department of Agriculture
insisted the U.S. beef supply is safe Tuesday after announcing the first
documented case of mad cow disease in the United States, but for six
months the agency repeatedly refused to release its tests for mad cow to
United Press International.

The USDA claims to have tested approximately 20,000 cows for the disease
in 2002 and 2003, but has been unable to provide any documentation in
support of this to UPI, which first requested the information in July.

In addition, former USDA veterinarians tell UPI they have long suspected
the disease was in U.S herds and there are probably additional infected

USDA Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced late Tuesday during a hastily
scheduled news briefing that a cow slaughtered Dec. 9 on a farm in
Mabton, Wash., had tested positive for mad cow disease. The farm has
been quarantined but the meat from the animal may have already passed
into the human food supply.

The slaughtered meat was sent for processing to Midway Meats in
Washington and the USDA is currently trying to trace if the meat went
for human consumption, Veneman said.

The fear is mad cow disease can infect humans and cause a brain-wasting
condition known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease that is always
fatal. More than 100 people contracted this disease in the United
Kingdom after a widespread outbreak of mad cow disease in that country
in the 1980s.

An outbreak of mad cow disease in the United States has the potential to
dwarf the situation in the United Kingdom because the American beef
industry is far larger and U.S. beef is exported to countries all over
the globe.

"We're talking about billions of people" around the world who
potentially have been exposed to U.S. beef, Lester Friedlander, a former
USDA veterinarian who has been insisting mad cow is present in American
herds for years, told UPI.

The USDA insisted the case is probably isolated and the US beef supply
is safe. "I plan to serve beef for my Christmas dinner," Veneman said,
"and we remain confident in the safety of our food supply."

Responded Friedlander: "She might as well kiss her (behind) goodbye, then."

Veneman went on to say she had confidence in the USDA surveillance
system for detecting mad cow and protecting the public, noting the
agency has tested more than 20,000 cattle for the disease this year.

This represents only a small percentage of the millions of cows in the
U.S. herd, however, and experts say current procedures are unlikely to
detect mad cow.

The Washington cow was tested because it was a so-called downer cow -- a
cow unable to stand on its own -- which is one possible sign of mad cow
disease. However, the United States sees approximately 200,000 of these
per year or about 10 times as many animals as are tested for the disease.

USDA officials told UPI as recently as Dec. 17 the agency still is
searching for documentation of its mad cow testing results from 2002 and

UPI initially requested the documents on July 10, and the agency sent a
response letter dated July 24, saying it had launched a search for any
documents pertaining to mad cow tests from 2002 and 2003.

"If any documents exist, they will be forwarded," USDA official Michael
Marquis wrote in the letter.

Despite this and a 30-day limit under the Freedom of Information Act on
responding to such a request, the USDA never sent any corresponding
documents. The agency's FOI office also did not return several calls
from UPI placed over a series of months.

Finally, UPI threatened legal action in early December if the agency did
not respond.

In a Dec. 17 letter to UPI from USDA Freedom of Information Act Office
Andrea E. Fowler, the agency wrote: "Your request has been forwarded to
the (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) for processing and to
search for the record responsive to your earlier request."

To date, the USDA has not said if any records exist or if they will be
sent to UPI.

"It's always concerned me that they haven't used the same rapid testing
technique that's used in Europe," where mad cow has been detected in
several additional countries outside of the United Kingdom, Michael
Schwochert, a retired USDA veterinarian in Ft. Morgan, Colo., told UPI.

"It was almost like they didn't want to find mad cow disease,"
Schwochert said.

He noted he had been informed that approximately six months ago a cow
displaying symptoms suggestive of mad cow disease showed up at the X-cel
slaughtering plant in Ft. Morgan.

Once cows are unloaded off the truck they are required to be inspected
by USDA veterinarians. However, the cow was spotted by plant employees
before USDA officials saw it and "it went back out on a special truck
and they called the guys in the office and said don't say anything about
this," Schwochert said.

Veneman said the Washington case "does not pose any kind of significant
risk to the human food chain."

Friedlander called that assessment, "B.S." Referring to the USDA's
failure to provide their testing documentation to UPI, he said, "The
government doesn't have records to substantiate their testing so how do
they know whether this is an isolated case." The agency also cannot
provide any assurance that this animal did not get processed for human
consumption, he said.

Schwochert agreed with that, saying the USDA's sparse testing means they
cannot say with any confidence whether there are additional cases or not.

Both Schwochert and Friedlander said the report of a mad cow case would
devastate the U.S. beef industry.

"It scares the hell out of me what it's going to do to the cattle
industry," Schwochert said. "This could be catastrophic."

Only hours after Veneman's announcement, Japan -- the biggest importer
of U.S. beef -- and South Korea both banned the importation of American

The American Meat Institute, a trade group in Arlington, Va.,
representing the U.S. meat and poultry industry, maintained the U.S.
beef supply is safe for human consumption.

"First and foremost, the U.S. beef supply is safe," AMI spokesman Dan
Murphy told UPI. "We think its safe for U.S. consumers to eat."

This is because infectious prions, thought to be the causative agent of
mad cow and vCJD, are not found in muscle tissue that comprises
hamburgers and steaks, he said. They are generally located in brain and
spinal cord tissue.

However, recent studies have suggested prions may occur, albeit in
smaller numbers, in muscle tissue, and bits of brain and spinal cord
tissue have been detected in hamburger meat.

Other protective measures have also been put in place that should
protect consumers, Murphy said.

Mad cow disease is thought to be spread by feeding infected cow tissue
back to cattle -- a practice that was common in the United Kingdom and
is thought to have contributed to their widespread outbreak. The
practice has been banned in the United States by the Food and Drug
Administration since 1997, which should help ensure this is "an isolated
case," Murphy said.

A report from the General Accounting Office issued just last year,
however, found some ranchers in the United States still violate the feed
ban and do feed cow tissue to cattle.

The GAO concluded: "While (mad cow disease) has not been found in the
United States, federal actions do not sufficiently ensure that all (mad
cow)-infected animals or products are kept out or that if (mad cow) were
found, it would be detected promptly and not spread to other cattle
through animal feed or enter the human food supply."


Steve Mitchell is UPI's medical correspondent. E-mail

Copyright © 2001-2004 United Press International

FDA Links Condemned Texas Cow, Pre-Ban Type Feed (MAD COW FEED BAN

Recalled meat issue uncovered

- 27/04/2004 - The new regulations, called the Pathogen Reduction
(PR)/Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) program, went into
effect in 1998 at large plants - those with 500 or more employees; in
1999 at small plants (with 10 to 500 employees); and in 2000 at very
small plants (with less than 10 employees). The programme was designed
to encourage meat-plant managers to examine their operations, identify
the "critical control points" where risks to the food might occur, and
put safety precautions in place to prevent potential hazards. Only about
half the meat and poultry recalled in the United States because of
suspected health hazards between 1998 and 2002 was actually recovered by
the manufacturers, according to a new study. This suggests new federal
food safety regulations that took effect in the late 1990s have not done
enough to ensure the safety of our food supply.

I was hoping that with the new regulations we would have higher
recovery rates, but that hasnt happened, Neal Hooker, co-author of the
study and assistant professor of agricultural, environmental and
development economics at Ohio State University
said. Manufacturers should have a
better success rate, but they dont.

Hooker said that the food supply is probably safer, but only because
recalls are triggered more often and more quickly. The bigger, faster
recalls are also due to better tests that have been developed in recent

Hooker and his team collected recall information from the federal Food
Safety and Inspection Service and other sources. They compared
information about the class of the recalls (from Class I, the most
serious, to Class III), as well as the type of hazard -- biological,
physical or chemical. They also considered whether the product came from
a large, small or very small plant.

They found that during this five-year period, 74 per cent of the recalls
were classified as Class I, the most serious threat to human health.
That didn't change after the new rules went into effect, Hooker said.
Additionally, 57 per cent of the recalls resulted from some form of
bacterial problem, such as Escheria coli or Listeria monocytogenes
contamination. Physical hazards, in which a foreign object is found in a
food product, accounted for only 16 per cent of the recalls.

"I was hoping we would see that the more hazardous cases - Class I
recalls that are microbiological in nature - would be more quickly acted
upon and have higher recovery rates," Hooker said. "But the answer was no."

The number of large plants recalling products has been relatively stable
over the years, with fewer than 20 cases per year. But recalls from
small plants has increased from 29 or less between 1994 and 1999 to 38
to 49 in 2000-2002. Likewise, recalls from very small plants jumped from
seven or less before 1999 to 17 to 26 per year from 1999-2002.

Surprisingly, although the number and size of recalls have increased,
Hooker said, their success rate in collecting product has not. On
average, only about half of products that are recalled are actually
recovered from the market, and few clear patterns emerged on whether the
rate of recovery increased or decreased during the period studied.

"The smallest plants seem to do the best job," Hooker said. "I think
it's because they have simpler distribution systems and know their
customers better, and will accept more product than was actually
included in a recall just for good customer relations."

The success of recalls, said Hooker, can get very complex. His research
suggests that timing matters.

If we ever have a major bioterrorism threat linked to the food supply,
we should have the system in place that would create the sense of
urgency to prevent problems. You want to be able to move very, very
quickly, and that should be in the regulations."

Hooker conducted the study with graduate student Ratapol Teratanavat.
Their results appear in the April issue of the journal Food Control



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