Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Whole Foods Recalls All Ground Beef In 27 States And DC

Last Friday, the natural food chain Whole Foods recalled all fresh ground beef sold in its stores in select states (including my own - PA) between June 2 and August 6, 2008, "because of a concern that it may be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria":

Press Release, August 8:
Whole Foods Market® Voluntarily Recalls Fresh Ground Beef

That's two months of burger sales, during the height of the summer season - prime burger time. That's not good. Not for a business that bases its reputation on delivering the safest, freshest, and most nutritious food products, and charges for those choice products proportionately.

Whole Foods had been selling meat that was processed by Nebraska Beef - a slaughterhouse the USDA says is the source of the latest E. coli outbreak, an outbreak that has resulted in almost 80 (reported) illnesses to date, and the recall of 6,500,000 pounds of meat.

The New York Times said in an article on Monday, Recall Leads Whole Foods to a Change, that Nebraska Beef "had received multiple citations and had fought a long-running battle with the Agriculture Department." That's the company Whole Foods chose to deal with? A company that deals primarily with factory-farmed animals?

Edmund LaMacchia, the Global Vice President of Procurement for Whole Foods, says on his blog post, The Safety of Meat at Whole Foods Market, "We have worked for the last 28 years to establish second-to-none quality and safety standards."

I read that to mean that if I want the highest quality and the safest meat in the US, I should feel comfortable turning to Whole Foods.

I don't. For whatever reason, and I can't believe that reason isn't tied up in profit, Whole Foods has let its standards slip. I don't trust that their meat isn't being raised and processed in a manner not unlike the goings-on at factory farms or Concentrated/Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), regardless of their in-store signage to the contrary.

I don't know what it will take for me to buy their meats again. The least they could do is apologize, instead of offering excuses.

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