At least when Nestles USA announced that it was recalling all its Toll House cookie products, the public knew which retailers were involved. Every retail grocery in the country provides generous space for Nestle products.

Nestle is currently at the center of the largest E. coli recall and largest E. coli outbreak in the country, and one-by-one the victims and their families are filing lawsuits against the cookie giant.

The deadly E. coli O157:H7 with a particular DNA fingerprint has linked 69 people in 29 states with the apparent cookie dough contamination.

Getting far less public attention than the Nestle’s E. coli O157:H7 cookie dough recall are seven beef recalls announced by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  

When a meat processor recalls its beef, the information is not much use to consumers unless they are told which retailers and restaurants are selling the product.   Time and time again, food safety advocates have found “recalled” items still on the shelves long after retailers were told to remove them.

A year ago, FSIS announced it would at least identify which retailers are involved in a recall within a three to ten day period. That new policy appears to be getting hit and miss attention this year by FSIS.

Andrew Shain at The State newspaper in South Carolina unsuccessfully attempted to get a list of retailers in that state who carry meat from JBS Swift Beef Company’s massive Greeley, CO processing plant, which has a recall out on 41,280 pounds of beef.

A JBS official told The State processors and stores did not want their names released and would “contact the public as they see fit.”

The JBS recall due to contamination by E. coli O157:H7 is the seventh to occur since May 4th.   It was announced on June 24th, and no list of retailers has yet been made available by FSIS.

It came just two days after Chicago’s International Meat Company on June 22nd recalled 6,152 pounds of ground beef products believed to be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7.   That meat went to other distributors and restaurants in the Chicago area, so FSIS says there will be no list of retailers. (Restaurants must  not be retailers, according to FSIS).

The 75 pounds of fresh beef trim products recalled on June 8th by Snow Creek Meat Processing in Seneca, SC all went to the Amazing Savings Stores in Asheville and Black Mountain, NC.   The retailers were identified on the same day by FSIS.

It took two days after the June 2nd recall by Portland, OR-based SP Provisions of almost 40,000 pounds of E. coli-tainted ground products for FSIS to finger Riley’s Market in Bend, OR as the only retailer involved.

On May 21st, Coal Valley, IL-based Valley Meats LLC recalled 95,898 pounds of ground beef found contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 after an outbreak was discovered by the Ohio Health Department.   Its by far the biggest recall of 2009, but FSIS claims no retailers are involved.   It seems all the meat went to what FSIS said were “various consignees nationwide.”

The May 12th recall by Bob’s Food City in Hot Springs, AK of 375 pounds of ground beef products thought to be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 involved only that retail outlet and FSIS said so on the same day.

May 4th was the date of the first E. coli recall of both 2009 and the new Obama Administration.    FSIS said none of the 4,663 pounds of ground beef products contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 went to retailers, only western New York restaurants.  Alex & George Wholesale, Inc. of Rochester, NY issued the recall.

Seven beef recalls due to O157:H7 contamination so far in 2009 are for a total of 188,341 pounds.   All seven are “Class 1, High Risk” recalls.   At least one led to the outbreak in Ohio.   And, the E coli beef season is just getting started.