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5 million patties may be tainted
Agriculture 'SWAT team' to search plant for bacteria source
1.2 million pounds of hamburger recalled
Outside sources for meat contamination?
Hudson Foods recalls another 20,000 pounds of hamburger
Germany seizes suspected British beef
Mad cow probe into 1980s burgers risk
USDA develops new test for E. coli bacteria
E. coli cases linked to sprouts tainted by animal waste
CJD after liver transplantation

1.2 million pounds of hamburger recalled

August 15, 1997
By CURT ANDERSON, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- The government expanded its recall of ground beef produced by an Arkansas company to 1.2 million pounds Friday because of new evidence of possible contamination by E. coli bacteria.

Anyone who has purchased frozen ground-beef patties since June 4 should check their freezers to determine if any of the Hudson Foods Co. products are there. If so, they should be returned to the point of purchase, said Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. The tainted beef came from the Hudson Foods plant in Columbus, Neb., and government officials are trying to determine if other contaminated products were produced there.

"USDA is conducting a thorough investigation at the plant to ensure that no unsafe product is being allowed to go into commerce," Glickman said. Much of the ground beef probably has already been eaten, officials said.

The Nebraska plant produces frozen ground-beef patties for such national chains as Burger King, Boston Market, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, officials with Rogers, Ark.-based Hudson have said.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. pulled all Hudson's ground beef from Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores nationwide earlier this week, spokeswoman Daphne Davis said. Customers can return any patties they purchased for a full refund, no matter when it was bought.

"We want them to have peace of mind," she said. Ms. Davis did not know how much Hudson's ground beef that might involve, or which stores might have sold it.
Burger King said Friday it had found no evidence that any hamburger it bought from the company on the production days in question was tainted with E. coli. The suspect ground beef was produced at Hudson's Nebraska plant on June 4, June 5 and June 9.

Burger King said it does its own E. coli screening tests on beef patties and also thoroughly cooks every burger at 155 degrees for at least 15 seconds, enough to kill the bacteria.

"We are confident that Burger King Corp.'s stringent quality standards, inspection policies and cookout requirements ensure the continued safety of our customers," the company, with headquarters in Miami, said in a statement.
Another large customer, Colorado-based Boston Market, said it had purchased about 16,000 pounds of Hudson beef produced on the suspect days but that those patties were long gone from its restaurants. It also does extra tests and cooks beef at properly high temperatures, the company said.

Although Hudson had voluntarily recalled some 40,000 pounds of hamburger earlier this week, federal officials say there appeared to be some unwarranted delay in determining how much beef may have been contaminated with E. coli.

"USDA will pursue the appropriate corrective action," said Cathy Woteki, undersecretary for food safety.
E. coli bacteria can cause severe diarrhea, cramps and dehydration and can be fatal, although no deaths have been associated with this ground-beef recall, officials said. The young, elderly and people with weak immune systems are most susceptible.

The initial Hudson recall began after health officials in Colorado traced the illnesses of about 20 people to hamburger patties they ate in early June. The federal Centers for Disease Control has asked all state health departments to check on local cases of E. coli illness to determine if there are others linked to the ground beef, a spokesman said.

In January 1993, an outbreak of E. coli poisoning traced to contaminated and undercooked burgers from Jack in the Box fast-food restaurants resulted in three deaths and hundreds of illnesses, mostly in Washington state. After that, the government began a public education campaign designed to encourage adequate cooking of burgers.

The government recall covers all Hudson frozen-beef patties produced since June 4. Officials have not yet identified every batch of hamburger that could be contaminated, but so far, officials said consumers should check specifically for these codes:

  '-
All 48-ounce packages of "Hudson Beef Burgers, Individually Quick
Frozen" that contain 12 quarter-pound patties. The code 156A7 is on
the bottom of the package.

All 3-pound packages of "Hudson 100% Pure Beef Patties,
Individually Quick Frozen" that contain 12 quarter-pound patties. The
code 156B7 is on the bottom.

All 15-pound boxes of "Hudson 60 -- 1/4-lb. Beef Patties, Uncooked
Individually Quick Frozen" containing 60 quarter-pounds patties. The
code 155B7 appears on the bottom.

All three contain the code "Est. 13569" in the USDA inspection seal
on the label.

Germany seizes suspected British beef

August 15, 1997  Reuter Information Servic
e HAMBURG, Germany - German customs officials have impounded 60 tons of beef that may have been illegally imported from Britain, a customs spokesman said Friday.

Most country of export stamps on the shipment had been removed but a British stamp was still visible, the spokesman said. Beef exports from Britain were banned by the European Union last year after the British government said there was a possibility that eating beef contaminated with brain-wasting "mad cow" disease might trigger a related disease in humans.

Officials seized the shipment in Kaltenkirchen, near Hamburg, on Thursday. The boss of a Hamburg importing firm has been questioned but later released.

Laboratory tests will be carried out to establish whether the shipment contained beef infected with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), the mad cow disease.

Mad cow probe into 1980s burgers risk

August 15, 1997 PA News John von Radowitz The U.K. Ministry of Agriculture confirmed tonight that it had commissioned a study which will apparently provide the first indication of how dangerous it was to eat burgers in the 1980s by determining which beef tissues went into which foods over a series of five-year periods to show consumption trends.

The story cites the report in the British Medical Journal today led by Dr Sheila Gore, from the Medical Research Council biostatistics unit in Cambridge, which reviewed surveys which showed that young people ate far more kebabs, hamburgers and meat pies than older generations in the late 1980s. They disclosed, according to this story, that ministers had commissioned an audit of which tissue from both cattle and sheep had gone into which foods. The data would be presented in periods of five years.

USDA develops new test for E. coli bacteria

August 14, 1997   Associated Press -- By CURT ANDERSON, AP Farm Writer 
WASHINGTON -- The food industry soon will be able to quickly and accurately detect E. coli bacteria in meat, produce and other products under a test developed by Agriculture Department scientists, officials said Thursday.

The test, described as similar in method to a home pregnancy test, can determine the presence of a dangerous strain of E. coli within five to 10 minutes instead of 48 hours or more, said USDA scientist Dan Laster.

"We think this will encourage more testing of meat and other foods because it is such a simple process," said Laster, who developed the material used in the tests at the agency's Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb.
Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said the tests will be used to find E. coli in food "before it gets to the grocery store and the kitchen table." The food industry performs such tests voluntarily.

The tests will be marketed for about $10 each beginning in two weeks by Meridian Diagnostics Inc. of Cincinnati, which developed them along with the Agriculture Department. Meridian already makes tests for many infectious illnesses.

The company also plans to apply for Food and Drug Administration approval for consumer uses beyond the wholesale food industry, perhaps even in private homes, said Meridian Chairman William J. Motto.

"In theory, you could use it anywhere," Motto said.
People infected with E. coli bacteria develop bloody diarrhea and stomach cramps, and it can be fatal. It is most dangerous to infants, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

Just this week, a major hamburger supplier was forced to recall 40,000 pounds of meat because of fears of E. coli contamination, and the Centers for Disease Control reported Thursday that contaminated alfalfa sprouts sickened some 70 people in Michigan and Virginia.

Some current E. coli tests work as rapidly as the new test, but are not as accurate. And those that are as accurate take longer and cost more, officials said. In general, the tests would be used this way: A sample of fluid from meat or produce -- for example, water used to wash strawberries -- would be placed in a plastic well.

A color would immediately appear indicating that the test was done properly. Then within a few minutes, a second color would appear to indicate whether dangerous E. coli are present. Companies usually test samples from a batch of meat or produce to check for harmful bacteria in the entire lot.

If the test performs as well in private industry as it has in the laboratory, Glickman said it would be added to the Agriculture Department's own food-testing programs. That testing, by federal inspectors, is in addition to the food industry's own voluntary testing.

Eventually, Laster said, scientists hope to develop similar tests that can be used on animals before they are slaughtered for food.

Hudson Foods recalls another 20,000 pounds of hamburger

August 14, 1997  The Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb -- Hudson Foods Inc. is recalling another 20,000 pounds of ground beef that may be infected with E. coli bacteria and were delivered to Burger King and Boston Chicken, the Omaha "World-Herald" reported Thursday.

Hudson, based in Rogers, Ark, said Tuesday it was recalling 20,000 pounds of suspected frozen patties that it had distributed to retail stores and warehouse clubs in 35 states in June and July.

The 40,000 pounds of possibly tainted meat is believed to have all been produced in a Hudson processing plant in Columbus, Jacque Knight, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service in Washington, told the newspaper.

Kim Miller, a spokeswoman for the Burger King chain office in Miami, Fla., said her company has voluntarily recalled ground meat produced at the Columbus plant from 1,205 restaurants in its central and western regions, including Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and Colorado.

Jeff Beckman, a spokesman for Golden, Colo.-based Boston Chicken Inc., said the comparatively small amount of meat his company received from the Columbus plant has already moved through the chain's restaurants. He said the meat "most likely" was shipped to restaurants on both coasts.

The USDA said it learned about the problem from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment after it received reports that about 20 people became ill after eating the Hudson product in early July. There have been no E. coli illness in Nebraska linked to the meat, said Dr. Thomas Safranek, Nebraska state epidemiologist.

Hudson, the nation's third-largest publicly traded poultry company, opened the $28 million Columbus plant in September 1995. At the time, Hudson said the plant would produce three million pounds of hamburger a week for Burger King.

E. coli cases linked to sprouts

 August 15, 1997 AP
ATLANTA -- A deadly bacterial infection normally associated with undercooked ground beef has been linked for the first time to alfalfa sprouts, the government said. The sprouts, eaten in Michigan and Virginia, were probably contaminated by animal waste while they were still seeds, but the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still investigating at what point that may have occurred.

In June and July, 60 people in Michigan and 48 in Virginia became ill from E. coli bacteria -- about double the numbers from last year during that period, Dr. Roger Shapiro, a CDC epidemiologist, said Thursday. At least 70 of those cases were linked to tainted sprouts. The seeds had the same distributor, which the agency did not identify. It is not clear whether the contamination took place at the farms where the seeds were grown or at the company that distributed them.

The CDC said the growing operations in each state where the sprouts were harvested looked sanitary during inspections. The recent outbreaks add to a growing caseload of E. coli infections linked to a wide range of foods besides beef. In July, 20 people in Colorado got sick from ground beef patties distributed by Hudson Foods Inc. of Rogers, Ark., which is now recalling 40,000 pounds of meat possibly tainted with E. coli.

But the bacteria can show up in a wide range of foods, especially raw vegetables. The CDC reported U.S. outbreaks of E. coli linked to contaminated lettuce in 1995 and 1996, and to unpasteurized apple juice last year. In Japan last year, at least 6,000 people were sickened by E. coli linked to radish sprouts. Sprouts have also been linked to four salmonella outbreaks in the United States since 1995.

"Even if you clean the seeds, a microscopic amount of the salmonella bacteria on the seed can multiply during the sprouting process," Shapiro said. "It's likely that it will be a similar situation with E. coli."
E. coli causes severe, bloody diarrhea and stomach cramps. The infection usually goes away in a week, but sometimes is fatal. About 10,000 to 20,000 E. coli infections occur in the United States each year. The infection is most dangerous to infants, the elderly and pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. The government recommends washing sprouts, although that is not foolproof.

CJD after liver transplantation.

Ann Neurol 1995 Aug;38(2):269-272 
Creange A, Gray F, Cesaro P, Adle-Biassette H, Duvoux C, Cherqui D, Bell J, Parchi P, Gambetti P, Degos JD
We report a 57-year-old woman who died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease 2 years after a liver transplantation. The liver donor had no history of neurological disease. In one albumin donor, possible Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease developed 3 years later. The patient initially had cerebellar symptoms. Neuropathology included "Kuru-type" plaques and prion protein (PrP) deposits involving the cerebellum predominantly. The patient was homozygote valine at codon 129 of the PrP gene while the liver was homozygote methionine. This observation raises the possibility of transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease by the graft itself or the associated albumin transfusions and, on a wider extent, by nonneural tissue.

Putative neurosurgical transmission of CJD with analysis of donor and recipient agent strains.

C R Acad Sci III 1997 Apr;320(4):319-328
el Hachimi KH, Chaunu MP, Cervenakova L, Brown P, Foncin JF
. A woman, aged 59 years, underwent a cortical biopsy that led to the diagnosis of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). A man, aged 46 years, underwent cranial surgery in the same department 3 days later for brain contusion, with an uneventful recovery. Twenty six months later, he developed clinical signs of CJD with a typical EEG pattern. Both cases exhibited features of the 'ataxic' form of the disease with depletion of cerebellar granule cells, without kuru plaques or PrP deposits. PrP deposits were immuno-histochemically observed in the cerebrum, spinal cord and peripheral nerve. Molecular genetic analysis performed on brain tissue revealed the codon 129 polymorphism to be Met129Met in the donor and Met129Val in the recipient. The shared 'cerebellar' phenotype and the genotypic discrepancy between the two patients lead us to postulate that the 'cerebellar' agent strain plays a major role in CJD phenotype and transmission.

1.2 Million Pounds of Beef May Be Tainted, U.S. Says

August 16, 1997  NY Times  By DAVID STOUT
WASHINGTON -- The Agriculture Department issued a far broader alert about tainted hamburger patties Friday, warning that about 5 million hamburger patties sold across the country may have been contaminated with potentially deadly E. coli bacteria. The hamburgers were made on June 4, June 5 and June 9 at a plant in Columbus, Neb., owned by the Hudson Foods Company of Rogers, Ark., and were sold under the Hudson brand name, the department said.
"This has caused us great concern," Tom Amontree, the Agriculture Department's director of communications, said Friday. He said the department's inspector general's office is investigating.
Amontree said that on Tuesday the company said only 20,000 pounds of hamburger was involved, and on Wednesday that the total might be 40,000 pounds. But when the Agriculture Department inspectors reviewed the records of the company's Nebraska plant, it found that more than 1.2 million pounds of frozen quarter-pound patties might be tainted.

Amontree said 16 people were sickened in Colorado from the contaminated hamburger, but that no one had died or become seriously ill. E. coli can cause abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and dehydration. Children, the elderly and people with damaged immune systems are most in danger of severe illness and complications.

E. coli bacteria come from animal fecal matter and generally find their way into meat at processing plants. Health experts have estimated that scattered instances of E. coli kill a few hundred Americans each year and makes thousands more ill. In 1993, an E. coli outbreak killed four children and made hundreds of people ill in the Pacific Northwest. The outbreak was linked to undercooked hamburger sold from the Jack in the Box fast-food chain.

Inspectors are still checking the Nebraska plant's records to determine why there was a delay in disclosing the full extent of the problem, Cathie Woteki, the department's under secretary for food safety, said Friday. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman Friday promised a plant investigation thorough enough that "no unsafe product is being allowed to go into commerce." Ms. Woteki said the department "will pursue the appropriate corrective action" against Hudson. She would not elaborate, and Amontree said it was too early to speculate about punishment. But he said, "We don't send in the inspector general on a whim."

A call to Hudson's headquarters, seeking comment from its spokesman, John White, was not returned. The suspected hamburger was distributed nationwide, in retail grocery stores and wholesale stores, and Agriculture Department officials said

much of it has probably been eaten by now
. Consumers who still have Hudson burgers in their freezers should return them to the stores, the department said.

The Nebraska plant under investigation produces frozen ground-beef patties for such national chains as Burger King, Boston Market, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, according to The Associated Press.

Burger King said Friday that it had found no evidence of tainted hamburger in its outlets, that it does its own E. coli screening tests on beef patties, and that it cooks every hamburger at 155 degrees for at least 15 seconds, enough to kill the bacteria.

"We are confident that Burger King Corp.'s stringent quality standards, inspection policies and cookout requirements ensure the continued safety of our customers," the company said in a statement from its Miami headquarters.
Boston Market, based in Colorado, said its Hudson burgers from the days in question have long since been sold. The company said it does its own tests and cooks its meat thoroughly. Wal-Mart pulled its Hudson ground beef from all Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores earlier this week, the company told AP.

The Clinton administration has made food safety one of its priorities. In July 1996, President Clinton announced new rules for inspection and controls in the meat-processing industry. Designed to bring more scientific testing into the inspection process, the rules amounted to the most sweeping changes in industry practices since the federal Meat Inspection Act of 1907.

The president has also announced a food-safety program for his 1998 budget, proposing that the government spend $43 million to increase the quantity and quality of seafood inspections and widen inspections of fruit and vegetable juices.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration has been stretched thin. It faces the huge new task of regulating nicotine in tobacco, as part of the proposed legal settlement with the tobacco industry, and its unannounced inspections of food and drug manufacturers have declined steadily in the past decade, from 22,189 in 1986 to 15,104 last year. And the number of inspectors at the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service declined from about 12,000 in 1978 to 7,500 Friday. The suspect burgers in the Hudson case come in 48-ounce packages with the code 156A7 on the bottom, in three-pound packages with the code 156B7, and in 15-pound boxes with the codes 155A7, 155B7, 160A7 and 160B7, the Agriculture Department said. The department said additional product codes might come under suspicion as the Hudson investigation continues, and that these would be made public as soon as they are identified. Amontree described the current recall as one of the largest in recent years. He said Hudson was the subject of a 1995 recall involving 3 million pounds of poultry found to have been tainted with bone. Since E. coli outbreaks have been linked to hamburger that is undercooked, many food experts recommend against eating hamburger that is pink inside.

Agriculture 'SWAT team' to search plant for bacteria source

18 Aug 1997 Associated Press
WASHINGTON (August 18, 1997 10:22 a.m. EDT) -- Trying to pinpoint what caused an outbreak of E. coli bacteria, the Agriculture Department dispatched a "SWAT team" of inspectors to the Nebraska plant involved in a recall of 1.2 million pounds of hamburger patties.
"We don't know the source of the contamination, whether it was through improper handling at the plant, or it might have been because of the raw product that was coming in from the suppliers," Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition."
Cathy Woteki, USDA undersecretary for food safety, said Monday she expects a preliminary report from the inspectors by midday, but that tests at the plant will continue for 15 work shifts.
However, she added on NBC's "Today" show, "In cases like this it's quite frequent that we can't determine what the ultimate source of the contamination is."
The department last week announced the recall of 1.2 million pounds of ground-beef patties processed at Hudson Foods Inc.'s plant in Columbus, Neb., on June 4, June 5 and June 9.
"I've sent the SWAT team out to this particular plant because I want to send a signal throughout the industry that we will not tolerate practices which are incompatible with public health," Glickman said.
James T. Hudson, president and chairman of Hudson Foods, said Sunday that his company welcomes the USDA probe. The company will do its own "full and aggressive" investigation to determine the source of the contamination, he said.
"It may have come from outside purchases," Hudson said in a telephone news conference from the company's headquarters in Rogers, Ark. "It may have originated in the plant, but we don't think so."
He declined to identify the company's main sources for beef, but said the Nebraska plant was not processing meat from sources outside the United States in early June.

The recall began with 20,000 pounds last Tuesday, expanded to 40,000 on Wednesday, and grew to 1.2 million pounds on Friday. The numbers increased because the USDA and the company decided to include all the patties produced at the plant on the days in question rather than just a portion of each day's output, Hudson said.

"When it comes to the public safety, we are not going to take any chances," Hudson said.
Agriculture inspectors were at the plant Sunday, and Hudson said he was expecting up to a dozen investigators by Monday. The initial recall began after health officials in Colorado traced the illnesses of about 20 people to hamburger patties eaten in early June. The Nebraska plant produces frozen ground beef for such national chains as Burger King, Boston Market, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, Hudson Foods officials have said.

Agriculture officials and the companies said all the meat recalled has already been sold or removed from shelves. They urged customers to check their freezers for Hudson Food patties processed on the dates in question. Boston Market purchases regular ground beef from Hudson for its meatloaf, but the company has never bought patties like those recalled, said spokesman Jeff Beckman.

USDA investigation focuses on outside sources for meat contamination

 The Associated Press By CURT ANDERSON, AP Farm Writer
WASHINGTON (August 18, 1997 6:22 p.m. EDT) -- The federal investigation into E. coli bacteria that may have contaminated about 1 million pounds of ground beef focused Monday on whether the threat came from a slaughterhouse or perhaps from an unwitting employee of a Nebraska packing plant.

Agriculture Department inspectors were intensifying their testing for the E. coli bacteria at the Hudson Foods Co. plant in Columbus, Neb., officials said. The once-a-day sampling began Monday and will continue for 15 days.

"We want to check their products to determine if there are any other problems," said Thomas J. Billy, administrator of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
The company said the testing could delay some shipments from its Columbus plant, which produces about 250,000 pounds of meat a day, said spokesman Skip Rutherford. The meat was being stored on-site for testing.

So far, government officials say there doesn't appear to be any reason for additional recalls. Fewer than a dozen people have contacted a USDA hotline saying they may have become ill after eating Hudson burgers, but none of those are verified E. coli cases.

A team of investigators and inspectors arrived Monday morning at the Hudson plant, a few days after a ground-beef recall initially estimated at 20,000 pounds was boosted to 1.2 million pounds -- one of the largest meat recalls in U.S. history.

E. coli is a potentially deadly bacteria that often gets into food through contact with fecal matter. It causes severe diarrhea, cramps and dehydration and was blamed for three deaths and hundreds of illnesses in Washington state in 1993, mainly because of undercooked burgers. Billy said the source of the E. coli contamination had not yet been identified but most likely came from a source outside the plant, which processes up to 3 million pounds of beef a week, mainly for such large chains as Burger King and Wal-Mart.

A list of about 15 companies that supply raw materials was being checked, and Billy acknowledged if one of them is the source it is possible that the bacteria could have gone to other meat processors.

"If we are able to identify a single source as a possibility, we will be reviewing that plant's records to see if there's any indication that problems occurred," Billy said.
Investigators will also check with some of the plant's 230 employees to determine if any of them might have been ill or could remember any other unusual circumstances that might have brought them into contact with E. coli, Billy said.
James T. Hudson, chairman and founder of the Rogers, Ark.-based company that bears his name, said in a telephone interview that he believes bacteria came from one of his suppliers. Company officials, he said, are checking with those suppliers to determine if testing procedures are adequate.
"It gets on there during slaughter, and we don't slaughter," Hudson said. "We're going to start inspecting every lot that comes in, rather than just depending on the supplier."
Billy said USDA is still probing whether Hudson officials purposely hid or simply made mistakes about the true scope of the recall, a potential criminal offense. Hudson said his employees focused on the code dates and product description of the potentially tainted beef, not on the total amount.
"There was no cover-up. There was no delay," Hudson said. "There was an error ... in terms of volume."
Hudson Foods has been involved in a large recall before. In March 1995, 3.9 million pounds of turkey products were recalled because they contained small bits of bone. Another 145,000 pounds of chicken thighs were recalled in November 1996 for the same reason, according to USDA records.
The company, which projects $1.7 billion in sales this year, also recently was fined $332,500 for multiple worker safety violations at a poultry plant in Noel, Mo. A review of worker safety records also found a few minor citations in recent years, including $4,000 in fines at the Columbus plant for failure to provide proper exits.
Overall, Billy said, Hudson has a good record. "I'm not aware that there has been a particular pattern of problems with this particular company," he said.

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