For Immediate Release
Tony Corbo or Erin Greenfield
JBS Swift Beef Recall Exposes Critical Gaps in USDA E. Coli Policy
Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
WASHINGTON - “The weaknesses in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) policy on E. coli are becoming very clear, thanks to the latest recall of beef for E. coli
0157:H7. This weekend’s announcement that the recall of beef products
from a JBS Swift Beef Company plant in Greeley, Colorado had been
expanded is just the latest illustration of why USDA’s policies must be
“When it first announced the recall last week,
USDA said that agency testing results led to the recall of 41,000
pounds of various cuts of beef from one day’s production at the plant.
Over the weekend, USDA announced that products from the plant have been
linked to illnesses in multiple states and expanded the recall to
include 380,000 pounds – a portion of one day’s production in April.
“This recall illustrates several critical gaps in USDA’s E. coli policy, which consumer groups for years have been urging the agency to fix, including:
- Product Testing – The agency has said this
recall was the result of its testing program. But a more robust
testing program that covers more stages of production could have
reduced the lag time between production and recall. During the two
months that passed between the production of this batch of beef and
when it was recalled, the potentially dangerous product was distributed
across the country to retailers and other processors who grind it into
ground beef or use it in other products. This makes an effective
recall of the product unlikely and puts consumers at increased risk.
- Treating E. Coli as an Adulterant – USDA currently treats E. coli
0157:H7 as an adulterant only in ground beef. This confuses the
agency’s efforts to follow up when testing reveals contamination at the
retail level or in products made from contaminated beef. The agency
should designate E. coli 0157:H7 as an adulterant in beef at
any stage of production to ensure that contamination is caught sooner
in the processing chain.
- Disclosing Where Recalled Products are Sold
– Last year, the agency adopted a new regulation that it would disclose
the retailers carrying recalled products in Class I recalls (those
posing serious health risks to consumers). This is a Class I recall
yet the agency has not released the names of retailers where this
product was sold. The agency’s failure to disclose information that
could alert consumers that they may have purchased a recalled product
“It should not take more illnesses or another massive recall of
E. coli-contaminated beef products to get USDA to improve its policies
and protect public health. It is time for the agency to act.”
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