Columbia Farms Inc. has reached an agreement with federal prosecutors about violations stemming from an immigration raid last fall. The plant, a subsidiary of House of Rawford, will pay the government $1.5 million to settle pending claims against it, and two accused employees will enter a supervised program aimed at clearing them of charges, AP reports.

The immigration raid against the company resulted in the discovery of hundreds of illegal immigrants, many of whom were subsequently deported. Jury selection for a trial against Columbia Farms had begun at the time of the settlement.

Source: Associated Press

Price Chopper defends Fairbank Farms

A spokesman for Price Chopper defended Fairbank Farms and its food safety practices, even after the company recalled more than 500,000 pounds in an E. coli outbreak that has left two people dead.

Mona Golub from Price Chopper said that its grocery stores will continue to sell Fairbank ground beef, reports the Albany Times Union.

“This is not a supplier that's questionable," Golub said. "This is a reliable supplier that is doing the right thing and is reaching for higher (standards) than most manufacturers and suppliers would consider.” She said that she has been in Fairbank's Ashville, N.Y., facility frequently and noted that the company tests its meat every five minutes on the line.

The Times Union notes that this is the third recall for Fairbank Farms since 2007.

Source: Albany Times Union

New York Senator authors new legislation on E. coli eradication, recalls

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said that the Fairbank Farms recall showed that there was a need for tougher meat inspections. "This is a stark reminder that food is still going straight to our kitchens, and grocery stores without being properly tested to ensure its safety," Senator Gillibrand said. "It's spreading too many diseases and costing too many lives. We need to do a better job of catching contaminated food before it ever comes close to a kitchen table or a school lunch counter. It's time to address the gaps in the inspection process and improve recalls and public education, so parents have the information to keep their families safe. I want to commend Fairbank Farms for showing leadership in instituting this voluntary recall."

Sen. Gillibrand has authored the E. coli Eradication Act, legislation that would mandate E.coli inspections of all ground beef. All plants that produce cuts and trimmings that make up ground beef would be required to test their products regularly before it is ground and again after the components are ground together. If E. coli is found, the bill would require companies to dispose of the meat or cook it to a temperature that would destroy the pathogen.

The Senator also announced a commitment to improving public education in the event of food outbreaks. To make sure information about food-borne illnesses and recalls is distributed accurately and efficiently, Senator Gillibrand is authoring the Consumer Recall Notification Act - legislation that would direct the Secretaries of the Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA, as well as the Commissioner of the FDA to improve communication among states, state and local health departments, food distributors and vendors to provide consumers with faster and more complete information.

Specifically, the legislation would:
* Provide information to health professionals to improve diagnosis and treatment of food-related illness;
* Develop a procedure to distribute regional and national advisories concerning food safety;
* Allow the FDA to share trade secrets, and commercial or financial information, and its list of registered facilities with other federal, state, local and foreign agencies - provided those agencies can assure confidentially of the information;
* Allow the FDA to share confidential information with the public when necessary to protect public health;
* Develop standardized formats for written and broadcast advisories;
* Mandate on-site notification of a recalled product by posting notification in the freezer case or shelving unit where the product is, or has been sold.

Source: Sen. Kristen Gillibrand

Taiwan importers join boycott of certain U.S. beef products

Nine major importers of U.S. beef have joined the Taipei city government in opposing imports of U.S. ground beef, intestines and spinal cords. The importers stated that 90 percent of their imported beef came from New Zealand and Australia and that consumers had safety concerns about those products.

“It is our responsibility to exercise safety control on the imported beef, and we will not import US ground beef and intestines unless public doubts about the safety of the products disappear,” Shusen Corp vice president Huang Shih-yan said at a press conference at Taipei City Hall, reports the Taipei Times.

The mayor of Taipei has asked 41 meat importers to implement safety control mechanisms that would prohibit the use of those three beef products from the United States. More than 1,000 stores and restaurants have joined against the use of ground beef, spinal cords and intestines.

Source: Taipei Times

Lawsuits filed against two processors for E. coli-related illnesses

E. colilawsuits were filed today in Plymouth County Superior Court for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on behalf of two children who recently became ill withE. coliO157:H7 infections after consuming contaminated ground beef produced by two different companies. The lawsuits were filed against Brockton, Mass.-based Crocetti`s Oakdale Packing, Inc., doing business as South Shore Meats Inc., and Ashville, NY-based Fairbank Farms, Inc. Both companies recalled meat last week after their products were identified as the source of separateE. colioutbreaks in the Northeast.

According to the complaint filed by her parents (Docket #: CA09-1389A), 12-year-old Andrea Munro, a Marshfield, Massachusetts resident, ate ground beef produced by Fairbank Farms on September 24, 2009 and became ill with an E. coli infection on September 28. She was hospitalized for six days as a result of her infection. While hospitalized, Andrea tested positive for E. coli O157:H7.

Eleven-year-old Austin Richmond, a Lincoln, Rhode Island, resident, became ill with an E. coli infection on October 17, one day after returning from a class trip to Camp Bournedale, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. According to the complaint filed by his mother (Docket #: CA09-1390A), Austin consumed a hamburger made from ground beef produced by South Shore Meats, Inc. while at Camp Bournedale. He received medical treatment three separate times before being admitted to the hospital for further care on October 29-30. Austin tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 infection and is still recovering from his injuries.

Both plaintiffs are represented by Marler Clark and by Steven Sabra of the Somerset, MA firm Sabra & Aspden.

On October 31, Fairbank Farms recalled 545,699 pounds of fresh ground beef products for potential E. coli contamination. South Shore Meats Inc. recalled 1,039 pounds of fresh ground beef patties derived from bench trim and mechanically tenderized beef cuts on October 26, 2009 after the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) confirmed a positive test for E. coli O157:H7 in the meat during an epidemiological investigation into an E. coli outbreak.

Source: Marler Clark