Food Safety Magazine

News | September 27, 2018

Congresswoman Pushes USDA for Answers Regarding 35-Day Lapse in Identifying Cargill as Source of Deadly E. coli Outbreak

By Staff

Congresswoman Pushes USDA for Answers Regarding 35-Day Lapse in Identifying Cargill as Source of Deadly E. coli Outbreak

This week, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting more information about the current ongoing multistate Escherichia coli outbreak linked to ground beef from Cargill. The outbreak has resulted in 18 illnesses and one death. 

DeLauro points out that the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) was notified about a cluster of E. coli illnesses on August 16, 2018. However, it took two weeks (August 30th) for any food product (ground beef sold by Publix Supermarkets) to be recalled. At this time, FSIS noted that the source of the outbreak was “yet to be determined.” Twenty days later on September 19, Cargill recalled 132,606 pounds of ground beef products were finally recalled.

DeLauro stresses that there was a 35-day lapse between FSIS first learning about the outbreak to when the traceback investigation identified the source of the outbreak.

“Such a timeline is simply unacceptable and unnecessarily jeopardizes public health,” DeLauro says in her letter.

The letter goes on to ask that USDA provide specific details regarding the traceback investigation related to this outbreak.

  • What is USDA FSIS’s opinion on the duration of the traceback investigation related to this outbreak? Does the agency have a record on the length of previous traceback investigations? If so, what has been the average length of previous traceback investigations for previous years?
  • After being notified of the E. coli O26 investigation on August 16, 2018, on what specific date did USDA FSIS learn that traceback information implicated product sold by Publix Supermarkets? On what specific date did USDA FSIS learn that traceback information implicated Cargill Meat Solutions as the supplier?
  • Over the course of this investigation, what specific traceback information did USDA FSIS, and/or its partners, request from Publix Supermarkets? What specific traceback information did USDA FSIS, and/or its partners, request from Cargill and/or other suppliers and distributors?
  1. Please provide specific dates for when this information was requested.
  • What specific traceback information did USDA FSIS, and/or its partners, receive from Publix Supermarkets, Cargill, and other suppliers/distributors, respectfully.
  1. Please provide specific dates for when this information was obtained.
  2. Please provide what format this information was obtained in.

DeLauro’s entire letter can be viewed at DeLauro.House.gov.

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