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One failed test sinks a family business

March 21, 2010 |  8:02 am

Dan Kotara's 35 years of grinding meat into hamburger ended last year after a single positive test for a potentially deadly strain of E. coli. Unable to market thousands of pounds of meat, he rented a trash bin and doused the food in black ink to render it unusable.His loss: an estimated $25,000.

After that August test, Kotara decided he could no longer risk another costly positive result. He laid off his eight employees and sold the grinders, massive freezers and other equipment from his low-slung building in Chicago. He is selling his building, too, so it can be razed for a parking lot.

What rankles Kotara is that federal meat-safety inspectors never identified the source of the contamination or connected it to a deficiency at his small plant. He could do everything right at Prange Meats Inc., his family business, yet still lose money because of shoddy practices by one of his suppliers, he concluded. Read more here:

Photo credit: The owner of Prange Meats in Chicago laid off his eight employees, sold his equipment and closed his doors even though he believes the deadly E. coli bacteria found in a sample of hamburger from his plant came from the slaughterhouse. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune / February 18, 2010)