Just another E. coli ground-beef recall

For some reason whenever an email alert from the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service comes through late at night, it's a sizable E. coli beef recall.

This time it's 153,630 pounds of frozen ground beef products produced by S&S Foods LLC of Azusa, Calif., that may be contaminated with that peskily virulent strain O157:H7. You couldn't have bought it in a grocery store, as it was sold in 30-pound boxes intended for food service and institutional use (the online recall notice has the contaminated box codes). They don't have to tell you which establishments were serving it, like they do now for retail establishments, etc. The ground beef products were shipped to distribution centers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Allentown, Pennsylvania, and from there to at least Virginia, as that's whose health department sounded the alarm. There have been 11 reported illnesses so far.

Conveniently, Michigan State professor Phil Howard has just created a nifty animated timeline of "Multi-State Microbial Food Contamination Epidemics in the US, 1993 to 2008." (Phil is famous for his organic industry consolidation charts, and we interviewed him last year.) Guess he has some updating to do for his new toy already.

I would love to know if the USDA sends these updates in real time, and if a 10:22 pm Pacific time stamp means the folks at FSIS are burning the midnight oil, trying to cross every necessary t and dot every i in the carefully worded notice — and of course, make sure their totally useless Ask Karen service is ready to handle the spike in traffic. Go ahead, bug her. It's fun! (Scroll down that post to the graphic.)

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