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Tossing 1,240,000 Pounds of Meat

January 25, 2010

Weekend news has a tendency to get overlooked.  So here, in the calm clear air of a Monday morning, allow me to recap something that went down late Friday night and made the newspapers on Saturday.

An estimated one million two hundred forty thousand pounds of meat was recalled (or six hundred twenty tons, if you prefer).  For those who may be following overseas, that translates to 562,000 kilograms.

We live in a world of big numbers.  And sometimes those numbers are so overwhelmingly large that we do not stop and take stock of them.  Here is a stab at trying to wrap some context around this volume of wasted animal life.

You ever go to a pig roast? Where they get a full size 200-pound hog? Do you remember how many people that fed, and how much was left over? Well, this amount of meat would be the equivalent of having a pig roast every day for over 17 years. By my rough calculations it is well over 6,000 hogs.  It’s a travesty.

But even if you were carefully reading the papers, and think you are up to speed on the salmonella outbreak, you may have missed a few key pieces of information.

Here is what ran in the Times Union on Saturday:

A Rhode Island meat company recalled 1.24 million pounds of pepper-coated salami on Saturday, after officials conducting a months-long, multistate investigation of a salmonella outbreak compared shopping receipts of those who got sick.

The recall by Daniele International Inc. comes amid an outbreak that’s sickened 184 people in 38 states since July.

The article mentions the 14 people who got sick in Washington, but fails to mention the 30 that got sick in California or the 15 who got sick in New York.  Here is the map from the CDC.

And you may have read the paper and breathed a sigh of relief.  The article mentions the company’s Daniele Italian Brand Gourmet Pack, it mentions Costco, and it mentions Walmart.

But as it turns out the scope of the recall is much greater.  And it includes other brands, and the meat has been reportedly tracked back to a larger list of retailers.

Somehow the article overlooked Boar’s Head, Dietz & Watson and Black Bear.  The full list of recalled precuts is available here from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service:

–       8-ounce packages of “BOAR’S HEAD BRAND ALL NATURAL SALAME COATED WITH COARSE BLACK PEPPER.”
–       8-ounce packages of “DIETZ & WATSON ARTISAN COLLECTION PARTY PLATTER PACK, HOT CALABRESE, PEPPER SALAME, HOT CAPOCOLLO.”
–       Catch weight packages of “DIETZ & WATSON ARTISAN COLLECTION, BABY GENOA PEPPER SALAME, MADE WITH 100% PORK COATED WITH BLACK PEPPER AND PORK FAT.”
–       9-ounce packages of “BLACK BEAR OF THE BLACK FOREST BABY GENOA PEPPER SALAME.”

And while the article mentioned two retailers by name, efoodalert has also identified Kroger (including Fry’s, QFC, Ralphs, Fred Meyer, and Smith’s Food & Drug), Sam’s Club, Stop & Shop, Amazon, ShopRite and Giant/Martin’s thus far.  I know Price Chopper was very pleased to recently announce they would carry Boar’s Head products. But I do not know if they sold any of the recalled salame.

I also do not know what to believe on the internets anymore.  But this guy seems to know what he’s talking about in regards to this salmonella outbreak, in case you were looking to read more.  Apparently there seems to be an effort to make him the undersecretary of food safety.  If half of what this blog says is true, it would seem to be a prudent move.

There is so much about this story that kills me.  Not least of which is that the solution to the problem of potentially contaminated black pepper is to irradiate it.  What?!

I’m going to try and let it go for now.

Before this story broke, I was going to tell you what an awesome week this is shaping up to be.
1) There is the New York State craft spirits tasting and seminar, presented by the New York Wine & Culinary Center and the New York Craft Distillers Guild.
2) Unbelievably, I was selected to participate in the Times Union judging of the “Best wings for a Super Bowl party.”
3) The new Chipotle in Clifton Park is opening this week and giving out free food.
4) Plus, today starts Guilderland’s Restaurant Week.

Luckily, I have a lot of coffee on hand and a hearty appetite.  But I do not know when I’ll be able to eat all of my soup from the soup swap.  It’s a good thing I have a big freezer.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    January 25, 2010 12:28 pm

    Let’s be clear. There was nothing wrong with the salami per se; it was the black pepper. So the danger isn’t so much with eating salami, but with our most ubiquitous table condiment (along with salt)! That to me is scarier than a recall of any meat. For the record, I am fine with irradiation.

    • January 25, 2010 2:07 pm

      Yesterday Dr. William Keene, Senior Epidemiologist with the Oregon Public Health Division made the following statement based on data available on Friday (in response to a question from the folks at eFoodAlert):

      “To my knowledge there is no compelling evidence pointing to pepper at this time. It is an attractive explanation that “makes sense” in many ways, and would be a relatively easy fix for the company, but we don’t have anything like culture-positive pepper that would support the hypothesis, and I don’t think that other possibilities have been ruled out yet.”

      The site goes on to say:
      “Dr. Keene added that the only Salmonella-positive meat sample found so far was not pepper-coated. Lab tests of pepper-encrusted meat slices that were in the same package as the Salmonella-positive sample did not yield any Salmonella. ”

      http://efoodalert.blogspot.com/2010/01/salmonella-daniele-salami-and-dirty.html

      So unless you have information that Dr. Keene doesn’t, or if I’m missing some new report, or should eFoodAlert turn out to be an untrustworthy source, I don’t think one can authoritatively support your statement.

  2. Tonia permalink
    January 25, 2010 12:29 pm

    Reminds of Fast Food Nation…. “There’s sh** in the meat.”

  3. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    January 25, 2010 4:33 pm

    Thanks, Mr. Fussy. A bad situation.

  4. January 25, 2010 4:51 pm

    Goodness. That hits too close to home. It would not be unlike me to buy a prepackaged bit of salami if a recipe only called for a small amount. Usually when recalls happen it’s not on things I use. Scary.

  5. January 27, 2010 11:31 am

    For those who are on the edge of your seats, I’ll try to post updates when I have new information.

    Like this, from eFoodAlert:
    “CDC reported this evening that the Iowa Department of Public Health…found the outbreak strain of Salmonella Montevideo in an opened package of Daniele salami that was retrieved from the freezer of one of the outbreak victims.”

    You can read the entire post here:
    http://efoodalert.blogspot.com/2010/01/smoking-gun-found-in-daniele-salmonella.html

  6. BenP permalink
    January 27, 2010 1:22 pm

    I wonder what proportion of the recalled meat ends up actually being tossed, and what portion ends up purchased and consumed.

  7. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    January 29, 2010 11:10 am

    Senior scientists in Rhode Island today (Jan. 29th) stated that the source of salmonella in the Daniele plant was and is pepper. Salmonella was found in the pepper that was going to be used to coat the salami. Whose source triumphs, Daniel B.?

    • January 29, 2010 11:28 am

      I have been delinquent in keeping you up to date on the matter.
      Thank you Mr. Sunshine for posting the current news.
      My source concurs.

      Your initial hunch was on the money. I just wanted to wait for the science to come through before making any conclusions.

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