Tuesday, January 11, 2011
RECALLED NJ GROUND BEEF - REDUX
Even CNBC is announcing the latest ground beef recall - all of 200,000 pounds of ready-to-cook hamburgers. (By the way, I blogged this recall yesterday already). Of course - food recalls affect the health of companies as well as health of the public,so reporting recalls is quite natural for a leading business website.
But this is not really a case of exceptionally huge amounts of meat being recalled. Not in the day of mass-produced food. Nor is it that unusual a food recall. Hamburger meat and ready-to-cook frozen hamburgers are recalled all the time by different companies in the business.
But there are two interesting facts that CNBC and most other news reports are not telling you about this recall - yet. One is that this is a case of American business at its worst - that is, unethical, with no concern for public health (see yesterday's blog). The other interesting fact - and I am still checking it to make sure I have it straight - is that the OneGreat Burger Company is physically linked to the former Topps Meat Co. LLC. Topps was a nice family-owned company, which prided itself on its safety procedures. This obviously did not prevent E.coli 0157 from being found in its frozen hamburgers, resulting in their having to recall 21.7 million pounds of frozen hamburgers. (Now there's a big recall - in fact, the second largest beef recall in U.S. history). Topps was, up to that point, the largest manufacturer of frozen hamburgers in the U.S. It had been in business for 67 years, and this was its first recall.
That huge recall tipped Topps into bankrupcy back in 2008 (It already closed its plant in 2007). During the bankrupcy proceedings, an affiliate of Hawthorne-based Premio Foods, a sausage maker, then acquired the remainder of the Topps lease at its New Jersey plant, together with its flash-freezing equipment for $250,000. It set up the not-so-great One Great Burger, of Elizabeth, N.J.(The Topps name was bought by another company). Now IT is being faced with a huge recall, and not just because its burgers were smelly and spoiled - and could be contaminated. Because it broke the food safety rules.
What would be really ironic is if Premio Foods was then forced to sell off the meat plant, and the Topps former ownership bought it back at a bargain-basement price. Redux, with reversal of roles.