business news in context, analysis with attitude

Regarding the ground beef/E/ coli story that keeps unfolding, MNB user Steve Smith wrote:

Everyone should read the book “Omnivore's Dilemma.”… a fascinating look into the origins of most of the food we buy and eat. When I read stories like your E-coli story today, I think about how incredibly ignorant the American public, and I think many of the retail organizations, are about the real story of food processing. The book should be mandatory if we want to change our macro food chain to be safer and better for our customers.

Regarding the lack of information about Nebraska Beef, the plant that seems to be the source of all these problems and that has had a contentious relationship with federal regulators for years, MNB user Jessica Duffy wrote:

In Boston and other places, the results of restaurant health inspections are printed in the paper (bad inspections often highlighted in the Metro), and I’m sure there are plenty of public domain websites where you can get that information. Why is this not the case for meatpackers and other food production facilities? There were so many problems repeated over so many years at this plant and I had never heard about any of it, until people finally started getting sick. Why did we have to wait for people to start getting sick to find out about the monstrously bad management at this meat company? This should have been public knowledge and retailers could then make decisions based on that information. There is no legal justification for this staying internal. Just like the restaurant around the corner, meat packers should have to face public scrutiny if they are not doing there job right!

Regarding the litany of charges against Nebraska Beef, and its seeming ability to litigate and obfuscate its way around them, one MNB user wrote:

I'm so disgusted I don't even know what to say. I'm not sure if I'm more disgusted as the lengthy record of Nebraska Beef, or at the lack of protection the govt. is providing. Either way I want to throw up.

Think how you'd feel if you'd eaten meat processed at its plant.

As I wrote yesterday, the information is all out there now – and it is hard to imagine that market forces won’t take over and pretty much wreck Nebraska Beef’s business. You have to ask yourself who would want to do business with this company now. Who would want to eat meat processed in that plant now?

Not me. Not you.

It was reported yesterday that a judge prevented the USDA from inspecting Nebraska Beef at one point because a shutdown would have put it out of business…which prompted MNB user Michael Sommers to write:

What judge would agree to stop the USDA from inspecting this company because, ‘another shutdown would put the company out of business’?! Good, companies like this should not be allowed to be in business if they habitually receive violations. Whoever is managing Nebraska Beef surely does not care what happens to the end consumers of their beef. With no focus on the people who keep them in business, they should have lost the ability to provide their tainted beef to Americans many years ago. Chalk this up as another case of the USDA failing to do its job, and the job it failed to do this time was to put Nebraska beef out to pasture years ago.

In this case, let’s not completely blame USDA. But I do think we should find that judge, grill a hamburger made from meat processed at Nebraska Beef, make sure it is nice and rare, and then make him eat it.

One MNB user, who asked to be identified as a “fed up American,” wrote:

What about Whole Foods Markets claim in using their brand protection service, Steritech mandating all meat producers and suppliers to be third party approved. What happened at Steritech with Nebraska Beef? Nebraska Beef had to have been approved by Steritech originally to have the job of slaughtering beef for Whole Foods Market.

Who dropped the ball at Whole Foods Market as they obviously were not doing their job in overseeing “product protection” as they claim. Nebraska Beef is a conventional beef slaughter house, why is Whole Foods using a conventional slaughter plant to begin with?

What has happened to Food Safety within the US, as it seems to be non-existent?

Whole Foods concedes it dropped the ball. The issue now is what happens when it picks up the ball, and what it does with the ball.

Yesterday, in my piece about ongoing E. coli contamination issues, I wrote the following about how the folks at Dorothy Lane Markets reacted when they found out that their Coleman Natural Beef was affected:

You should know that the moment that the folks at Dorothy Lane Market found out they had a problem and pulled the product, they also engaged in a massive outreach effort to their customers. It is my understanding that in addition to sending out emails and being completely available to the local media, staffers at Dorothy Lane made some 10,000 phone calls to customers within about 72 hours. You read that right: 10,000 phone calls.

It doesn’t surprise me that Dorothy Lane Markets would do that, because that is the kind of operation that CEO Norman Mayne always has run. He puts his customers first, always…and runs about as transparent an operation as I can imagine.

There probably are people who would have advised him not to make those phone calls, not to talk about the issue, to batten down the hatches and try to ride out the storm with as little communication to the outside world as possible. That would, of course, have been an enormous mistake…for anyone, but especially for Mayne, who never has run that kind of business.

Good lesson for any other retailer dealing with these kinds of problems.

To which one MNB user responded:

When is Dorothy Lane Market coming out west! Kudos to them in their handling of the e-coli incident. Particularly noteworthy given the size of their staff! Very impressive in this day.

Damn right.

KC's View: