The ground beef subject to recall was produced at Packerland Packing's facility in Green Bay, US on 2 September, and was distributed to food stores in seven US states: Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin. No meat was exported.
Stores in the seven states have been asked to remove the product from their shelves. The ground beef was sold under the following brands and codes: Imperial Beef, Fine Ground, 81/19 G18148FR; PPC's Ground Beef, Fine Ground Sirloin, 95/5 G49548RO; and PPC's Ground Beef, Coarse Ground Sirloin, 95/5 G49540PP.
"Our company's paramount concern is for the safety of our customers, and we have been working closely with the USDA to ensure that the recall is completed successfully," said Steve Van Lannen, general manager for Packerland Packing.
Packerland initiated the recall after its internal testing indicated that the ground beef was possibly contaminated with E. coli. An internal records review at Packerland indicated the product was mistakenly shipped.
For the food industry however, E. coli has always been bad news. Beef industry leaders have met frequently to formulate actions plan in order to help make the beef supply chain as safe as possible.
Last year for example, more than 200 industry leaders, representing each link in the beef production chain, participated in a two-day working summit that was sponsored by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
This summit focused on identifying good manufacturing practices, interventions and research needs to reduce the incidents of E. coli O157:H7. Action steps were identified for each industry segment: cattle production, fabrication, processing, retail and foodservice.
The reason for such concern of course is the fact that the meat industry must fight to retain the fragile trust of the public. Following health scares associated with beef in both North America and Europe, the industry is now one of the most regulated in the world.
And meat companies are on high alert for any possible bacterial outbreak or health scandal. The industry has taken a battering in recent years - following reports of a possible link between BSE and new variant CJD in 1996, UK sales of beef products declined immediately by 40 per cent, and in April 1996 household consumption was 26 per cent below the level seen in the previous year.
Export markets were completely lost. The price of beef cattle fell by over 25 per cent, and many abattoirs had to temporarily close down or put their workers on short time.