Monday, August 17, 2009


Not again! Another ground beef contamination. Now we have E.coli O157:H7 back in the news. I guess it was time. Salmonella bacteria have been hogging the headlines too much lately.

The USAID/FSIS has announced that Sterling Pacific Meat Co. of California, is recalling approximately 3,516 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. By the way, most of this meat seems to have gone to food service establishments not to our grocery stores, so avoid eating ground beef meals in restaurants for a while until the government and the industry sort it all out.

But there is also a smaller beef recall due to E.coli O157:H7 which was sold directly to consumers. Pasha Halal Poultry, doing business as Marcacci Meats, is recalling approximately 128 pounds of ground beef products apparently distributed only in Vineland, N.J (as far as we know).

Well, as usual, it may be too late. The ground beef sold to the food industry was actually packaged in mid May..hmmm...some three months before the public alert came out. Great...The Vineland ground beef recall is more up-to-date as it was packaged on August 12.

But there are many alternatives if you like ground meat meals. As far as I know, ground veal has not been recalled. If you don't get upset about eating veal (which yes, is quite easy to do if you let yourself think about it), try my son's favorite veal dishes: ground veal, some chopped onions, bread crumbs, an egg or two, and garlic, salt, white pepper and herbs (tarragon, sage or parsley) to taste. Shape the mix like hamburgers and sautee slowly in olive oil. Serve with rice, orzo or mashed potatoes, and lots of those good vegetables (a 1 to 5 ratio is nice). You can make a light wine or sherry and cream sauce for them if you like, or, even eat them with ketchup on a roll. This veal dish is much cheaper than others, and makes great leftovers to be warmed up in the microwave. That is, if they don't all get eaten for midnight snacks as happens in our house.

Bon appetit,


Saturday, August 8, 2009


Now that I am back from killing myself cycling around Ireland, and have duly recovered from the swine flu (not really all that bad, considering...except that all your friends avoid you), I am catching up on the latest in food safety.

There it was in my mailbox...a ground beef recall. I caught the beginning of this latest food nightmare when I was leaving the country. I was not at all surprised to find out that it developed into a much bigger issue over the weeks. Not an unusual pattern for an outbreak in our food system.

Ground beef is the riskiest meat to eat - the most outbreaks and the most cases of illness. It is often made from the riskiest bits of meat to begin with, and the processing it goes through adds to the risks already there. Bacteria love it.There have been a number of bad outbreaks over the years, with large numbers of confirmed illnesses and many times more unconfirmed. But actually, things appeared better now than they were in 2000 and 2001. This may be changing.

And don't mistake the symptoms for swine flu. At least in my case, they were quite different - almost no diarrhea or cramps, just aches, fever, general misery....But on ballance, I think I'd rather have this than come down with Salmonella Newport from my burger.

Bon appetit!



Well, now it's beef's turn to come up contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. On August 6 the USDA announced that Beef Packers, Inc., based in Fresno, California, is recalling approximately 825,769 pounds of ground beef products that may be linked to an outbreak of salmonellosis. That is a whole lot of beef. The ground beef products were sent to retail distribution centers in Arizona, California, Colorado and Utah.

So, we just avoid eating it, right? No, unfortunately not, because we don't know what brand name they were sold under. The product was shipped in bulk, and then repackaged by other different companies into smaller packages with different names. Who knows what they all are. Besides, the 'use or freeze by' date has long expired. The meat was sent out on various dates in June, and the latest use-date was before mid-July. In other words, the chances are that it has already been eaten. That nasty bout of diarrhea, vomiting, fever etc. that you had a few weeks ago, that you thought was the 'flu - well, it could have been that medium-rare hamburger you ate (or, well-cooked one you made without using careful kitchen hygiene). To make matters worse, this is a particularly nasty member of the Salmonella family - Salmonella Newport because it is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics. And that is not mentioning the risk of longer-term effects on our health, like arthritis and worse.

So, what do we do? Well, if you are presently eating in California, Arizona, Colorado or Utah, the safest approach is to only buy ground beef from a store that grinds up their own. Or, maybe skip eating any ground beef meals for a while altogether. Try a turkey-burger instead. It is better for you, and actually quite good, particularly if you throw some garlic and herbs on it, and maybe a pile of cream sherry-soaked sauteed red onions on top, served on an onion bagel...

Bon appetit,