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Wolverine Packing Company Recall: What Consumers Need to Know

You may have heard about the FSIS announcement this week that the Wolverine Packing Company in Detroit, MI was recalling 1.8 million pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.  This recall is linked to 11 patients in four states.  I wanted to provide an update on what FSIS is doing based on the evidence available.

FSIS was notified of the first illness on May 8 and immediately began working with our partners at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find the source of these illnesses.  Based on the initial findings in the investigations, FSIS and CDC were able to establish a direct link to ground beef products supplied by Wolverine Packing Company.

As these investigations are initiated, it would be natural for one to assume that the scope of a recall would be limited to the amount of contaminated products that were produced within a specific time frame, or a production lot, to use an industry term.  However, it is not uncommon during the course of an investigation to identify additional products that should be included in a recall.

In general, there are several reasons why the amount of product would increase as the agency considers whether to conduct a recall and, if so, what product is involved:

  • A company cleans its processing equipment at the end of the day, instead of between production lots.  If this is the case, there is no basis to distinguish between production lots, and a day’s worth of production effectively becomes one lot.  In this situation, FSIS would assume that the entire day’s production was contaminated and subject to a recall.
  • Some plants use multiple lines that converge into common mixers.  If contaminated product is being produced by one line, the product from the other lines would become contaminated once it enters the common mixer.
  • Detailed distribution records allow FSIS to narrow the scope of a recall.  In the absence of such records, FSIS must take into account the possibility that contaminated product was comingled with other products.  Therefore, FSIS would include all the products in question in the scope of a recall to protect public health.

The illnesses associated with this particular recall involve a very rare strain of E. coli O157:H7, so if there are additional illnesses, it may be easier for FSIS to establish a direct link to product from this facility; it also will be possible that any additional illnesses will be linked to product that is already subject to the recall.  If any additional illnesses are linked to different production dates that are not covered in the initial recall, then the recall would be expanded.

So far, we have no evidence to suggest that the recall should be expanded, but the investigation is still very active.  We continue to look for additional sources either from Wolverine or a common supplier and will certainly pursue those leads if the investigation uncovers them.  If warranted, the new information also may result in an expanded recall.

For consumers, we advise all consumers to safely prepare raw ground beef products by cooking them to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  When dining out, this is equivalent to ordering your burger well done.  At the grocery store, check ground beef product labels that bear the establishment number “EST. 2574B” with a production date code in the format “Packing Nos: MM DD 14” between “03 31 14” and “04 18 14.”

Industry’s responsibility during any recall follows a consistent pattern.  In this situation, Wolverine is responsible for notifying the distributors who received its product to return the product to Wolverine.  In turn, the distributor is responsible for alerting any retail outlets or restaurants to which it delivered the recalled product.  Retailers and restaurants are expected to pull the product from their shelves or storage area and return it to Wolverine.

As the FSIS press release indicated, the recalled products were shipped to distributors for restaurant use in Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio.  If you are a restaurant owner in these states, and are wondering if you have received this recalled product, you should receive notification from your distributor that they were supplied recalled products from Wolverine that was sent to you.  Or, you can check product labels that bear the establishment number “EST. 2574B” with a production date code in the format “Packing Nos: MM DD 14” between “03 31 14” and “04 18 14.”

As always, if you have additional questions, do not hesitate to “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available that is available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov or via smartphone at m.askkaren.gov.  Or you can call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), which is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday.  You also can access our online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System can be accessed 24 hours a day at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/reportproblem.

10 Responses to “Wolverine Packing Company Recall: What Consumers Need to Know”

  1. james cunningham says:

    you wont tell me what states, what stores, what’s the matter with you?

  2. Elaine Pack says:

    Refusing to disclose where the tainted meat went is a BAD move. When people get sick or die, the location and supplier will surely become public information. What/who are you protecting? Certainly not your customers!

  3. Sample6 says:

    To the quality managers we work with, a recall can be a career and company-defining event. It is an action taken to protect the consumers and the company as a last resort. The vast majority of recalls are voluntary and a reflection of conscientious behavior by the retailers, wholesaler and producers. As a result of a recall, companies and brands incur high costs in investigation, remediation, customer management, logistics and brand perception. With the amplification in social media and news channels, public perception regarding food safety and recalls can get distorted. Here’s the truth about recalls:

    http://blog.sample6.com/blog/bid/380691/The-Truth-About-Food-Safety-Recalls

  4. diane conley says:

    The public has a right to know which states have the tainted meat, which brands names sold under, and which restaurants use the meat…… Yes once again big business wins, because companies would loose $$$ but people will loose their life……Whose bottom line is more important………..Now really!!!!!!! We all know the moral answer…………..

  5. nancy kirkland says:

    I know you have indicated Tennessee as a possible state in which the tainted meat was sent….I understand you cannot and will not name the stores and restaurants

  6. nancy kirkland says:

    I understand that you cannot and will not list the names of the restaurants and stores that the tainted meat was delivered but since you have named the possible states could you also list the cities that it was delivered to so we consumers could be on the lookout for an announcement concerning our cities and states…could you please reply to this….thank you….

  7. Ben [USDA Moderator] says:

    Thanks for your comments. Per our regulations developed through public rule-making in 2008, FSIS does not include the names of restaurants on retail consignee lists associated with any recall, because we are not aware of any basis under our authorizing acts for doing so. FSIS makes the consignee lists available to help consumers to identify recalled product that they may have in their homes. Naming restaurants would not have this effect. The restaurant would have been notified by its distributor if it had received product that had been recalled, and any prudent restaurant would immediately stop using the product after receiving such information. When a recall happens, the Agency makes sure that the producing company and its distributors are calling all of the consignees, including restaurants, and advising them to pull the product from their shelves, refrigerators, and freezers. Thus, publishing the names of restaurants will not advance the purposes of the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act in the way that posting the names of retail consignees does. Moreover, in order to protect the public, FSIS continues to update retail consignee lists following a recall. The agency conducts effectiveness checks as described on page 13 in the Directive to ensure that recalled product was removed: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/77a99dc3-9784-4a1f-b694-ecf4eea455a6/8080.1.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

    -FSIS Congressional and Public Affairs Staff

  8. Peggy says:

    I was given a box of Angus ground meat from the Wolverine Pacing Co with the label
    EST 2574B but the Packing Nos. are different. Should I consider this meat suspect?

  9. Jaroslaw says:

    Perhaps the more you know, the less meat you should eat? Elephants,giraffes etc. are very strong and they don’t eat any.

  10. jessica french says:

    Wolverine is full of crap first off it was a gas leak and the employees got sick they didn’t do anything about the problem then on top of that they are racist I wouldn’t deal with them and they are not the cleanness place

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