US scraps 25m pounds of beef in food-bug scare

The United States food industry, which prides itself on being "the safest in the world", is facing demands for even stricter food hygiene standards following the recall of 25 million pounds of ground beef and the closure of a major meat packaging plant last week. The recall, ordered after an outbreak of E. coli food poisoning in Colorado, was the largest ever in the US, and has put the vast meat industry under the microscope.

Yesterday, many media reports claimed that the lax practices inspectors uncovered at the plant - a big packaging operation at Columbus, Nebraska, belonging to Arkansas-based food giant, Hudson Foods Inc - were widespread. One report said beef cows in Arkansas were regularly fed chicken waste that could contain faecal matter, a source of the E. coli bacteria. One rancher defended the practice as highly effective and economical, fuelling the suspicions of those who question the intensive methods of much US agriculture.

The government has been accused of over-reacting in summarily shutting down the Nebraska plant. The E. coli outbreak appears to have been relatively minor, with only 17 reported cases and no fatalities. But opinion polls suggest that confidence in the safety of US food has been undermined and the public needs reassurance.

A poll conducted for Newsweek magazine found that 54 per cent of those asked were less likely to buy hamburgers at fast-food outlets and 41 per cent were less likely to buy hamburgers at the supermarket. Instructions for safe cooking abounded, but the impracticality of many recommendations led one food expert to say that any burger cooked for the stated time would be "dry as a husk".

Around 9,000 people die of food poisoning in the US each year, and the figure is rising -some say because of better diagnosis and record-keeping.

Hudson Foods has insisted that its plant was strictly run and adhered to all hygiene regulations, and employees appeared to confirm that. While violations had been registered before, they were mostly for infringements not related to hygiene. The company's official line continues to be that the contamination must have come from outside the plant, probably from a slaughter house. Department of Agriculture inspectors do not rule out this possibility, but pressed for the closure of the plant after discovering what they said were lax procedures and record-keeping.

They singled out a practice, reportedly common in other meat packaging companies, whereby meat left over from one day's processing was added to the next day's batch without any record of which batches were involved. This meant, they said, that it was impossible to guarantee that the contamination had been contained in one day's production.

The hamburger chain Burger King, which is supplied by Hudson, announced on Saturday that they had cancelled their hamburger contract with Hudson and would never buy from the company again. They have, however, kept their contract for chicken, which comes from a different Hudson plant.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Partner Manager - EMEA

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Partner Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Sales Manager - OTE £100,000

£45000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Sales Manager is re...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company provides IT support...

Recruitment Genius: IT Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This manager is for a successfu...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific