After a somewhat quiet autumn, the retail meat industry felt the impact of several huge recalls to close out 2000 and finished off a year that saw a substantial amount of beef pulled from shelves due to potential bacterial infection.
he action came as American Foods Group, a Green Bay, Wis.-based meat supplier, called back 1.1 million pounds of ground beef it had sent to stores in 15 different states. That prompted another large customer, Kroger Co., Cincinnati, to voluntarily recall product even though there were no reports of sickness in its marketing areas. The retailer offered refunds to anyone who had bought ground beef that coincided with the dates of the recalled meat.
Days later, Cargill Turkey Products, Waco, Texas, voluntarily recalled 16.7 million pounds of poultry products manufactured since May, after federal health officials connected the facility to an outbreak of listeriosis that has sickened at least 30 people to date. Authorities are continuing to investigate.
Just three days into 2000, Supreme Beef, Dallas, recalled 180,000 pounds of ground beef due to the presence of E. coli bacteria, even as the company simultaneously fought a court battle with federal regulators over the government's salmonella testing procedure, which Supreme Beef had failed three times. The processor subsequently declared bankruptcy, blaming government agencies for its downfall.
Midway through the year, IBP, Geneseo, Ill., voluntarily recalled more than a quarter-million pounds of ground beef for possible E. coli contamination, and proceeded to take a serious look at its own production plants and in-house safety systems in hopes of preventing such incidents in the future.
The summer of 2000 saw more than 900,000 pounds of ground beef and meat products recalled over a single two-week period in July and August, all due to possible bacterial contamination.
One company, Moyer Packing Co., Souderton, Pa., was responsible for nearly 600,000 pounds of recalled meat throughout the summer months.
Some officials attributed the high number of recalls in 2000 to improved testing and monitoring methods being used within the industry, such as the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point program that became mandatory in processing facilities of all sizes. Increased media attention to recalls also boosted public awareness of the incidents.