On August 8, the USDA announced yet another beef recall originating with the frequently cited firm Nebraska Beef Ltd.
What's unusual about this recall is that Whole Foods Market, the Austin, Texas-based chain of organic grocery stores, discovered the recalled beef was on its shelves, too.
The New York Times reports the company failed to note an important change at Coleman Natural Beef, one of its ground beef suppliers. Coleman Natural came under new ownership and began using a slaughterhouse in Omaha - Nebraska Beef Ltd. - that had received multiple citations and had fought a long-running battle with the Agriculture Department, according to the Times. It was also the plant that was the source of ground beef that has sickened people around the country.
Most of the beef was sold at other stores, but the news hurts Whole Foods' quality reputation.
The Washington Post reports that the issue falls into a regulatory gray area.
The article explains that it is essentially legal to sell steaks and roasts that carry a potentially deadly strain of E. coli, but not if that meat is going to be used to make ground beef. Steaks and roasts are not monitored as closely as meat sold for ground beef because those primal cuts are less likely to make people sick. (Bacteria typically remain on the outside of those cuts and are killed off in cooking.)
The ground beef that Whole Foods recalled was made using primal or intact cuts, which is typically used for steaks and roasts, and the company grinds its own beef in an attempt to assure quality and safety, according to a spokeswoman quoted in the article.
Some consumer advocate groups say primal cuts of meat should be inspected in the same way as ground beef, while the beef industry has argued that steaks and roasts should be treated differently because they are less likely to make people sick, according to the Post.
For more information on the beef recall, go to the USDA's website.
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