Fairbank Farms, an Ashville, NY, establishment, is recalling approximately 545,699 pounds of fresh ground beef products that may be contaminated withE. coliO157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced.

FSIS became aware of the problem during the course of an investigation of a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses. One New Hampshire resident has died, and two other residents became ill from E. coli, New Hampshire health officials reported. No details about the individuals were released.

Working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health and agriculture departments, FSIS determined that there is an association between the fresh ground beef products subject to recall and illnesses in Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts. FSIS is continuing to work with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Connecticut Department of Public Health, other state health and agriculture departments and the CDC on the investigation.

The case is not linked to an outbreak of E. coli that sickened more than 20 Rhode Island residents, the Boston Globe reported. That case led to a recall from South Shore Meats Co. of Brockton, Mass.

"Our current priorities are to inform the public and address their concerns. Further, we want to help them to identify and remove any of the recalled products that may be in their freezers," said Ron Allen, CEO of Fairbank Farms.

The recalled products are very specifically defined and are past their expiration date by 23 to 32 days. This means they are no longer being sold as fresh product in supermarkets. The products were sold in the following states: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

"We're assisting our customers in conducting this recall," Allen said. "We are urging consumers to check their freezers for ground beef products that are listed in the recall. Consumers who identify these products should return them to the point of purchase for a full refund."

The products subject to recall were sold under the following brands: Trader Joes, Price Chopper, Lancaster and Wild Harvest, Shaw’s, BJ’s, Ford Brothers and Giant. Each package bears the establishment number "EST. 492" inside the USDA mark of inspection or on the nutrition label. These products were packaged on September 15 and 16, 2009, and may have been labeled at the retail stores with a sell-by date from September 19 through 28, 2009.

Source: FSIS, Fairbank Farms, Boston Globe

Veal slaughterhouse shut down for animal cruelty

A Grand Isle, Vt., slaughterhouse was shut down after a video from the Humane Society of the United States showed workers kicking, shocking and otherwise abusing veal calves before slaughter.

Frank Perretta, the owner of Bushway Packing, said that his business was shut down on Friday, but said that he had not see the videos, which were posted online at the HSUS’ Web site. One of the videos shows a Bushway employee dragging a calf to a pen by one leg while repeatedly shocking it with a cattle prod.

“I just don’t know what’s going on,” Perretta said, according to the Burlington Free Press. He said that the facility was regularly inspected by the USDA.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a statement noting that the behavior seen on the videos clearly violate the USDA’s humane handling regulations.

"USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is investigating these alleged violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA). FSIS took immediate action with respect to its employee and the establishment upon preliminary verification of the incident. The Department fully supports the investigation of all those involved in these alleged violations of the HMSA. To this end, I have also called on our Inspector General to conduct a criminal investigation of the events in the video.

"FSIS has a rigorous program to train inspection personnel in verifying humane handling and slaughter at establishments. When an FSIS employee observes behaviors that are not in compliance with the HMSA, they are obligated to take immediate action. The behavior of FSIS and establishment personnel witnessed in this video is inexcusable," Vilsack said. The FSIS did not identify the inspector in question and did not detail any accusations against the person.

The Free Press reports that Bushway Packing is a small, custom slaughterhouse that is certified for organic slaughtering and processing. The operation specialized in “bob veal,” which are cattle that are only a few days old. Perretta said that the operation included stunning the animals with a bolt gun before slaughter.

The American Veal Association has issued a statement that read, “The veal industry has an ethical obligation to provide for the proper treatment and well-being of the animals in our care. The treatment of calves depicted in the videos taken at Bushways Packing Plant in Vermont are unacceptable and not consistent with the standards of the American Veal Association (AVA), the Veal Quality Assurance Program or federal law. The AVA supports the swift and strong action of the USDA and the Vermont Department of Agriculture.  We do not condone animal abuse and expect that the USDA and Vt. Department of Agriculture will determine the appropriate action once they conclude their investigation.”

Sources: USDA, Burlington Free Press, American Veal Association

McDonald's, consumer groups urge FDA ban on feeding poultry litter to cattle

A group of consumer groups, including Consumers Union and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, are urging the Food and Drug Administration to ban the feeding of poultry farm waste products to cattle. The coalition is threatening to file a lawsuit or push for federal legislation to establish a ban if the FDA doesn’t act, according to theLos Angeles Times.

The FDA estimates that farmers feed 1 million to 2 million tons of poultry litter to cattle annually. The litter includes feces, chicken feed, feathers and other waste, can increase the risk of cows becoming infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), according to the Consumers Union.

The National Cattleman’s Beef Association has pointed out that FDA reviews have shown that the change of a cow becoming infected from eating poultry litter was remote. "Science does not justify the ban, and the FDA has looked at this now many times," said Elizabeth Parker, chief veterinarian for the trade group.

McDonald’s Corp. added its support to the ban, issuing a statement saying that the company does not condone the feeding of poultry litter to cattle.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Attendance up at AMI show

Buyer attendance at the 2009 International Meat, Poultry & Seafood Industry Convention and Exposition exceeded 2007 totals, a very encouraging sign about the significance of the trade show, which closed today at McCormick Place in Chicago.

“In one of the more difficult economic times, increasing the number of packer processor buyers attending the show is a very positive development,” said AMI President J. Patrick Boyle.
More than 20,000 people registered for the show, with a ten percent traveling from outside the U.S. More than 100 countries were represented.

“Clearly, the meat, poultry and seafood industry around the world continues to see this show as a relevant, valuable event,” Boyle said. “Not only did the show have good traffic on the floor, education workshop attendance was very strong and feedback was very positive.”

Interest in the “free Saturday” program drew strong interest from local companies in particular. Attendance at AMI’s Listeria control workshop held on Saturday was standing room only.

The next Convention & Exposition will occur April 13-16, 2011, at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The move away from Fall and to the Spring in 2011 has received wide support from attendees and exhibitors alike.

Source: AMI