In January 2002, Montana Quality Foods and Processing Inc. was notified by USDA that some of its ground beef had tested positive for E.coli. Company officials claimed they informed USDA that the contaminated beef had come to Montana Quality Foods from a larger plant in Colorado. Later that year, ConAgra recalled about 19 million pounds of ground beef due to E. coli contamination at its Greeley, Colorado plant.
In the lawsuit filed last year, Montana Quality Foods officials claimed USDA failed to trace the source of the tainted ground beef. The company also alleges federal officials retaliated against the operation after Montana Quality Foods officials criticized efforts to protect the nation's beef supply.
Montana Quality Foods praised the American Association of Meat Processors decision to join the company's suit against USDA, claiming the move adds legitimacy to its complaint that USDA unfairly protects large meatpackers.