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E-I-E-I-ewww: Modesto processor recalls 1 million pounds of ground beef products amid E. coli outbreak

August 6, 2010 |  7:30 pm

GetprevAdding to ongoing national food safety concerns, a Modesto meat processor said it is recalling 1 million pounds of ground beef and bulk ground meat products after their products were linked to seven people falling ill from a rare sub-type of the E. coli bacteria.

Yeah. That’s right. One. Million. Pounds. Being recalled now – well into the summer barbecuing season.

But get this: If you’ve got packages of the recalled meat in your freezer, it probably has been sitting in there for a while.

Valley Meat Co., a 50-year-old family-run business, sold the potentially problematic ground meat in California, Texas, Oregon, Arizona and overseas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a statement. The meat was processed -- wait for it -- from Oct. 2, 2009, to Jan. 12, 2010.

The packages have the phrase “EST. 8268” stamped inside the label’s USDA inspection mark.

“This is the first recall in our history and we will investigate the matter thoroughly and take any measures deemed necessary to further elevate our safety standards, protect consumers, and ensure confidence in our products,” the company said in a statement.

The bacteria, E. coli O157:H7, can produce toxins that can cause intense intestinal distress or kidney failure, particularly in children or the elderly. 

Much of the meat was sold frozen, the company said. Valley Meat is now trying to get whatever remains in the food supply chain to be yanked from warehouses and grocery store shelves.

Among the grocery outlets that carried the products is Safeway Inc. The chain said it is recalling some of its Butcher’s Cut frozen ground beef patties sold in Safeway, Vons, Pavilions and Pak ‘N Save stores in California, Nevada and Hawaii.

The products include:

  • 2,388 resealable packages of Butcher’s Cut 100% ground beef patties 73% lean/27% fat, 2.5-pound, 10-count packages sold after Jan. 13
  • 1,008 resealable packages of Butcher’s Cut 100% ground beef patties 80% lean/20% fat, 2.5-pound, 10-count packages sold after Jan. 12
  • 279 boxes of Butcher’s Cut 100% ground beef patties 73% lean/27% fat, 128-ounce, 32-count boxes sold after Jan. 12

Safeway said the recalled products are stamped with a “best before” date of Jan. 7, 2011.

“No illnesses have been reported in connection with Butcher’s Cut products. However, illnesses have been reported in connection with other recalled ground beef produced by Valley Meat Company,” Safeway said in a statement.

The full list of recalled Valley Meat products can be found here.

Though, given the fact that the beef was processed at least seven months ago, it makes you wonder how effective a recall is going to be at this point. And, at least in the eyes of some food safety advocates, this most recent recall is one more reason that the federal government needs to roll out more comprehensive – and digitized -- traceability programs.

“It’s concerning that the USDA was alerted to this problem in July and it took three weeks for the recall information to get out to the public,” said Donna Rosenbaum, executive director of Safe Tables Our Priority. “The farther you go out from the point of distribution, the harder it is to recall.”

-- P.J. Huffstutter

Photo: A shopper examines meat -- not included in the recall -- at a store. Credit: Don Tormey / Los Angeles Times