The recall of ground beef at Whole Foods Market has shed a new spotlight on Nebraska Beef of Omaha, one of the countrys largest meatpackers. Seven people in Massachusetts, from ages 3 to 60, were sickened by E. coli from beef bought at Whole Foods stores. The same strain has sickened 31 people in 12 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada.

The Whole Foods ground beef was among 1.2 million pounds of Nebraska Beef recalled on Friday. The processor also recalled 5 million pounds produced in May and June after its beef was blamed for another E. coli outbreak in seven states.

Sanitation violations over the past six years at Nebraska Beef, include:

  • The USDA shut down the plant three times in 2002 and 2003 for problems such as *** on carcasses and water dripping off pipes onto meat
  • In 2004 and early 2005, Nebraska Beef was written up at least five times for not removing brains or spinal cords from the food supply, as required
  • U.S. inspectors in August 2006 threatened to suspend Nebraska Beef operations for not following requirements for controlling E. coli
  • Also in 2006, Minnesota health officials blamed Nebraska Beef for sickening 17 people who ate meatballs at a church potluck; several victims filed lawsuits against Nebraska Beef, including the family of a woman who died

Whole Foods claims that it did not know that their supplier, Meyer Natural Angus (sold under the Coleman Natural brand), had switched processing plants to the Nebraska Beef facility. A not-so-simple oversight as Whole Foods has long audited the slaughterhouse facilities from which it is supplied.

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