Friday, October 18


Just when you thought that all parties had come clean and were ready to move on with their lives, Wampler now denies its meat caused any problems for anybody in the massive Northeast outbreak of listeria. Well, sure, they want to have the strongest case against the inevitable lawsuits - but guess what? Our old friend the USDA is backing them up, contradicting the evidence gathered by themselves and the CDC. It was the latter who established the eating patterns and matched the samples that clearly fingered this plant, but the USDA apparently can't give up their role as official PR firm for the meat industry. Wampler is also disputing charges from an anonymous inspector who said USDA officials "told the inspection team they could no longer touch the carcasses of the birds when checking them for abnormalities that could indicate they were contaminated. In another e-mail, the anonymous inspector noted that salmonella tests at the plant stopped months ago. Listeria also is prevalent 'in the chiller at our plant,' the inspector wrote." But now the AP says the inspector didn't work at the Philly-area plant, but at another Wampler plant! Oh, OK. What a relief. I'm sure that listeria is not one of the dangerous strains.


As the news filters down to Joe Average that we've just had the largest recall in US history, the tangents are beginning to multiply. Some of the tainted meat, it turns out, was fed to kids in School Lunch Programs, and some went to Snow Ball Foods, which today issued its own recall of about 300,000 pounds of Executive Chef Homestyle Oven Roasted Turkey Breast. Executive Chef sounds about right - if it's an Enron Executive. Speaking of CEO-bashing, Molly Ivins gets right to the point with the title of her column, Poop on poultry. She fails, unfortunately, to see the connection between reactionary, careless meat profiteers and progressives' continual bankrolling of them by purchasing their products. She does of course call for stricter regulations, which is just what USDA chief Ann Veneman promised today in an excuse-laden speech (oh, it was the risk assessment that was slowing you down? What was the risk that was greater than killing people with contaminated meat?) headlined here as "USDA to whomp up Listeria testing in wake of recall."

But let's not forget listeria's partner in crime, E.coli, which parents of sickened and dead children have been raging about to congress, demanding tighter rules. While most Americans are clueless about the feces in their meat, one parent sums up what's wrong with the current attitude: "The meat companies let cow manure get in the meat, and then they tell the victims that if we had only cooked it to 160 degrees my child would not have died." The grammar's not perfect, but you try doing a better job when it happens to you. And it's happening to more and more people, as the Emmpak/Cargill recall (a mere 3.3 million pounds, remember?) seems to have sickened at least seven people in Michigan. Hey - this stuff happens.

Thursday, October 17


Two from FoodMarketExchange that are only noteworthy for the synchronicity:
On the same day the Fast-food industry is urged to offer healthy choices, McDonald's announces a cunning plan to partner with Krispy Kreme overseas. Yeah, that'll shake those lawsuits off, real quick!

Wednesday, October 16


So now our questions are answered. Wampler was indeed the source of the killer listeria (at least, some of the killer listeria, since the official death toll for this strain has now been quietly kicked back to 7 from 20). OK, now we can stop paying attention again.

Oh, but wait a second, turns out there are a couple lingering questions. Such as, why the hell did the USDA lie to us one week ago when the first recall occurred, saying it wasn't Wampler/PilgrimsPride? Did the USDA check for this strain and not find it, and only the CDC could? Then what else is the USDA not finding? Or is this, as with ConAgra, another blatant example of the USDA colluding with a meatpacking company to manipulate the release of life-and-death information in such a way as to benefit the company at the expense of consumers' lives? And if this plant has listeria all over the damn place, what are conditions like at the hundreds of other meatpackers across the country? Also, will this black eye finally force Bush to change his business-uber-alles attitude about meat inspections? Just asking.

I'll leave the last word to the Baltimore Sun: If terrorists were behind [these deaths], there would be screaming headlines and a national mobilization. But it's our own food companies instead; with them, it's just one of the costs of doing business.

Sunday, October 13


Am I being alarmist? Because to me, the scariest part isn't that Wampler, aka Pilgrim's Pride, aka Listeria-Laced-Deli-Turkeys-R-Us, is now recalling 27 million pounds of meat, the largest amount EVER recalled in US history... It's not even the fact that the USDA still insists this listeria is NOT the same listeria that's caused 120 illnesses and 20 deaths (that's what they're saying today, anyway)... No, it's that this contamination was found only incidentally, because inspectors were rigorously looking for the other, killer, listeria. So how much other feces-infected meat is slipping by these days when inspectors aren't doing a life-or-death investigation?