OnJuly 22, 2012, Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation (“Cargill”) announced a Class I voluntary recall of approximately 30,000 pounds of fresh ground beef due to contamination from Salmonella Enteritidis. The recall follows a Salmonella outbreak involving 33 patients in seven states (MA, ME, NH, NY, RI, VA, VT). An investigation performed by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (“FSIS”), the regulatory agency responsible for ensuring that our country’s commercial supply of meat is safe, has linked five cases of Salmonella infection to ground beef produced by Cargill on May 25, 2012.
Additional incidences of salmonellosis related to the meat subject to the recall should be few, as the onset of the five illnesses which were traced back to the subject ground beef were all well over a month ago, between June 6, 2012 and June 13, 2012. Symptoms of salmonellosis, which include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever, generally manifest between 12 and 72 hours after consumption. The use by date on all ground beef recalled by Cargill has passed. Accordingly, none of the meat recalled is presently available for retail purchase. Concerns remain, however, with respect to whether consumers may have stored potentially contaminated meat in their freezers for later consumption.
Cargill recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey in August of 2011, after 107 people in 31 states were infected with salmonellosis. In response to the last recall, Cargill temporarily halted ground turkey production at its Springdale, Arkansas facility in order to implement additional quality and testing standards. Cargill has not yet determined the source of the bacteria contamination in relation to the present recall. Accordingly, it is unclear what measures Cargill will implement to prevent future incidents of contamination.
Though it remains early in the recall process, Cargill has performed admirably in working to protect public health, while at the same time protect its brand and minimize the commercial impact of the current Salmonella Enteritidis contamination.
An effective recall requires preparedness, a rapid response, transparency, and a focus on the consumer. Cargill has exhibited all of these qualities in this instance by:
- quickly identifying the potentially contaminated batch of ground beef;
- rapidly initiating a voluntary recall;
- working effectively with the FSIS to protect consumers against further infection; and
- issuing an apology to those who have become ill.
Now, Cargill must work to identify the source of the Salmonella Enteritidis contamination so it may implement measures aimed at the prevention of any future occurrences and attempt to restore consumer confidence.