Tests show the beef, sold to retail stores and institutions, was contaminated with a deadly form of E.coli bacteria.
While the USDA continues to attempt to get a handle on how best to ensure these outbreaks don't occur, proponents of a new technology are pressing their case. The technology is known as irradiation. While there is some controversy about its deployment, the government has cleared it for use to make food safer.
Recently, irradiated ground beef has found its way on to the shelves of several chain grocery stores in the US with mixed results. While the assurance of cleanliness appealed to some consumers the price, anywhere from 10 to 25-cents higher than conventionally inspected meat, did not. One chain discontinued stocking the product after lackluster sales.
The technique, which goes by the name SureBeam, sends a beam of electrons through the meat destroying food borne bacteria like E.coli.
Detractors of the process question the effect of irradiation on the nutritional value of the meat and stress the need to focus on cleaning up the processing line. Promoters of the system point to USDA testing that revealed no significant effect on nutritional value and a record which shows the U.S. as having one of the safest food supplies in the world.