US scraps 25m pounds of beef in food-bug scare
One of the country’s most respected commentators on Russia, the EU and the US, Mary Dejevsky has worked as a foreign correspondent all over the world, including Washington, Paris and Moscow. She is now the chief editorial writer and a columnist at The Independent and regularly appears on radio and television. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Buckingham.
Monday 25 August 1997
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.
- 2 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 The most powerful passports in the world
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
Nepal earthquake: How you can help victims of the Kathmandu disaster
Nepal earthquake in pictures: Photos show devastation caused by 7.8 magnitude earthquake
Royal baby: Live updates as superbug closes ward at St Mary's Hospital in London where Duchess of Cambridge is due to give birth
Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
General Election 2015: The photo of a tree that proves the Tories have an image problem
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...