Both at home and abroad, media attention paid to food scares in recent years has fanned consumer fears about food safety. But at least two legitimate concerns were back in the news this week.
Stateside, a recall of beef contaminated with the deadly E.coli bacteria was expanded. And overseas, the British beef industry, which saw all its exports banned during the Mad Cow scare, has finally cracked open the last closed market across the channel
After six years, France has become the last European Union nation to lift its ban on the import and sale of British beef. The restrictions were imposed in 1996, when it was determined that bovine spongiform encephalopathy, more commonly referred to as Mad-Cow disease, could transfer from bovines to humans.
In 1999, the European Commission was satisfied that British beef was BSE-free. Despite the EU's nod, France held out until the French food agency certified its safety and the world court was poised impose a fine of more than $150-thousand per day.
Creuztfeldt-Jacob Disease (KRAUTZ'-feld YAK-ov), the human variant of B-S-E, has claimed the lives of more than 100 people.
Closer to home, Wisconsin-based Emmpak Foods, a division of Excel, has increased its recall of E. coli tainted beef from 416-thousand to 2.8 million pounds. The tainted product is suspected of making 40 people sick in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
Emmpak, a supplier to restaurants, hotels and grocery stores, has one of the most sophisticated HAACP plans in the U.S., utilizing both a steam pasteurization cabinet and USDA-approved laboratory techniques. Even so, research scientists have compared the detection of E. coli to the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack.
The grinding plant where the contaminated meat was discovered has been shut down. Emmpak is working with the USDA, which recently announced it would be toughening food safety policies, to re-open the plant.