I read a very good commentary on the website of the Newark, NJ Star-Ledger, published the next town over from Elizabeth, NJ, where Topps Meat is located. The contents of this paragraph I did not see reported anyplace else:
"Topps had a USDA inspector on site every day like every meat processing plant. When an additional inspection was ordered in the wake of the mass recall, the new inspectors found violations so severe that they suspended the plant’s ground beef processing. Why did the regular inspector miss these problems? Because the bad practices went back for months, there was no way to be sure the meat packaged on any given day was safe."
For some reason, e.coli contamination is coming back after it was mitigated following that tragic outbreak at the Jack-in-the-Box restaurants. But even before this resurgance, not all rock-solid frozen hamburger patties get cooked properly before being served. Be it in "cafe’s" in health clubs, or at company picnics, or college or company cafeterias, or from the Sunbeam electric frypan in the kitchen, often these hockey pucks show pink if you cut the cooked burger with a knife. But, I see no reason to believe the percentage of improperly cooked hamburger has changed. Its just that until a about a year ago, there was less e.coli to make people sick.
After 9/11, the government replaced the rent-a-cops at the nation’s airports with TSA. Most of these burger plants do not slaughter cattle on the premises. How about 100% testing of beef at the slaughterhouse by the USDA?
Over the years, I have read that some chains do take special steps to check for listeria, e.coli, etc. Folks like Hardees pre-cook burgers, so that reduces chances of transmitting e.coli. Others test each batch of raw meat. I expect some chains to tell the public what steps they take to reject tainted meat.
I was in a ShopRite supermarket today. Their big warehouse is in Elizabeth, NJ. They used to sell burgers under the Topps name as well as their house brand burgers also made by Topps. They have all been pulled from the shelves. But, this store still has Topps frozen chicken kabobs and Topps frozen beef kabobs for sale. Would I touch them? Not with a ten foot pole. Not after the USDA went to cover their ass. That USDA label on those boxes isn’t worth the cardboard it is printed on.