Food Safety Lawyer Questions Timeliness of JBS Swift Beef Recall

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It took two months before the Food Safety and Inspection Service fully caught on to an an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 associated with beef cuts from a Colorado meatpacker. By then, at least 18 people had become infected by the bacteria, which ended up in store-packaged hamburger in many cases. National food safety lawyer Fred Pritzker is calling for the USDA to investigate the delay in notifying the public to a potentially lethal health risk.

National food safety lawyer Fred Pritzker issued the following statement, calling for the United States Department of Agriculture to investigate why it took so long for the public to be notified of a deadly threat of E. coli 0157:H7 in beef produced April 21 by JBS Swift Beef Co. of Greeley, Colorado.

It was first announced June 28 by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/Recall_034_2009_Expanded/index.asp that an investigation into at least 18 matching E. coli illnesses was related to a large recall of beef by JBS Swift. The firm has recalled 421,000 pounds of cut beef produced April 21 and 22 because it may be contaminated with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 that was causing the infections.

"It's disturbing and dangerous that more than two months went by before consumers received information of a possible link between tainted meat and an outbreak of potentially lethal E. coli illnesses,'' said Fred Pritzker, a national food safety lawyer whose firm, Pritzker Olsen, P.A., represents victims in practically every major outbreak of foodborne illness.

Pritzker said, "The FSIS is responsible for the safety of our meat supply and it should have been more aggressive in protecting consumers from a foodborne pathogen that is especially dangerous to small children, the elderly and others who have weakened immune systems.''

According to a report by The Associated Press http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iMC6NXcYwx69vXhgNTnA9JVceahQD995V5K00, FSIS initially took a sample of beef from JBS Swift on May 21 that tested positive for the outbreak strain of E. coli. "Because that beef did not enter the food supply, officials did not urge a recall,'' the story said.

The AP quoted an FSIS spokesman, who said that the agency urged the recall that took place a month later after it conducted a follow-up investigation, which included information about reported illnesses. Pritzker said the delay raises questions about a possible lack of thoroughness and urgency with regard to FSIS oversight in the case of this outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has characterized the outbreak as infecting at least 23 people in nine states. At least 12 victims were hospitalized, including two patients who suffered a severe complication known as HUS, or hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

Pritzker Olsen is one of America's most experienced foodborne illness law firms, representing victims of food poisoning nationwide.

The firm has collected millions of dollars on behalf of victims of foodborne illnesses. For more information, visit http://www.pritzkerlaw.com or contact firm president Fred Pritzker at 1-888-377-8900, or email him at fhp(at)pritzkerlaw(dot)com. Pritzker Olsen has offices at Plaza VII, Suite 2950, 45 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55402.

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Fred Pritzker

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Kathy Will

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