Most Recalled Meat Is Eaten, Never Recovered

Most recalled meat is eaten before it can be returned to the factory, according to a nauseating analysis by USA Today. Well-publicized and timely recalls catch slightly less than of all affected meat, a stunning accomplishment when compared to the recovery rates for tainted meat that sickens people.

Most people cook and consume their E. coli burgers in the time it takes for someone to go to the doctor and discover the source of their illness. For recalls following reports of consumer illness, only 20% of affected meat is ever recovered.

The USDA, which regulates meat and poultry, routinely samples thousands of products for harmful bacteria before they leave factories. Test results take a few days to produce.

During that time, companies can legally ship a product. If tests are positive, the product is recalled. Because the meat has been in the market a few days, recovery rates tend to be good: 62% per recall, on average.

There have been 54 meat recalls this year, up from 34 last year. For the most recent recalls, recovery rates are not yet available.

To get more consumers to check homes for recalled meats, the USDA next year plans to publicize names of retailers selling meat that was later recalled. “We think it would be helpful for people to know, ‘Gee, that is my store,’ ” says Petersen.

‘Gee Mr. Peterson, that would be awfully helpful. It also helps to shed your penchant for dripping raw flesh in favor of thoroughly cooked meat.

Most recalled meat is never recovered, likely is eaten [USA Today]
(Photo: amyadoyzie)

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  1. ironchef says:

    recalled meat (provided it’s not mad cow or spoilage) is usually perfectly good if YOU COOK IT PROPERLY.

    All the starving people in the world are probably aghast about the amount of waste Americans do.

  2. Pink Puppet says:

    @ironchef: I’d consider human nature before getting all cranky about it. If those selfsame starving people were relatively well-off, do you see them risking it?

  3. youbastid says:

    @ironchef: I am so sick of this defense. “If you cook it properly” really means “charring it to shit.” Red meat is meant to be eaten red. When it was first eaten, cooking it properly meant eating it raw. It was still served raw not long ago. I’d prefer the cows be SLAUGHTERED AND BUTCHERED PROPERLY so I can cook it the way it’s supposed to be eaten, thanks.

  4. ironchef says:

    The rest of the world is far less wasteful.

  5. Leah says:

    @ironchef: Agreed. I’ve definitely cooked recalled stuff before, and I’ve not had a problem. If I know there’s a recall for E. coli or the like, I just cook the food extra-thoroughly.

  6. Rando says:

    Usually my meats says “Approved by USDA blah blah”, but if it’s recalled then isn’t that false advertising? Meat is only approved if it is safe to eat…no? Lawsuit?

  7. Buran says:

    well DUH. People tend to actually eat their purchases in a timely fashion because it tastes better while it’s fresh. They assume that it’s safe to be sold due to safety regulations, and that’s an assumption that shouldn’t have to be questioned.

  8. ludwigk says:

    Most recalled meat seems to be frozen beef patties. I didn’t eat them before, and I’m not starting now.

  9. spinachdip says:

    @Buran: Not DUH at all. As ludwigk points out, much of the recalled meat is frozen and pre-packaged, and the point of frozen meat is that they last longer in the freezer.

    People who eat their meats right away buy the store-packaged kinds, or even better, fresh-cut by the butcher.

  10. coren says:

    “Well-publicized and timely recalls catch slightly less than of all affected meat”

    “If tests are positive, the product is recalled. Because the meat has been in the market a few days, recovery rates tend to be good: 62% per recall, on average.”

    38 percent is “slightly less than all”? Really?

    “the USDA next year plans to publicize names of retailers selling meat that was later recalled. “We think it would be helpful for people to know, ‘Gee, that is my store,’ ” says Petersen.”

    Bah, if they’re not already paying attention to the recall to begin with, what makes you think that naming stores will do any more? They’ll probably mention a bunch of chain grocery stores, and people will ignore it just like they do when it’s just a recall. That, or overreact to it.

  11. shred says:

    gross. and another wonderful reason to stop eating meat.

    other good reasons:

    it’s expensive.
    it’s unnecessary to a healthy diet.
    it heavily contributes to global warming.
    it strains our eco-system in other ways.

  12. spinachdip says:

    @shred: While you’re technically correct on all points, very few non-meat products are as efficient source of protein as meat. A playing card deck-sized piece of meat contains the daily recommended amount of protein – you can’t get anywhere close to that with, say, a bowl of beans.

    I agree that the average American eats *too much* meat (and it wouldn’t be that costly to reduce the envitonmental impact of meat production), but I wouldn’t endorse cutting it out completely, especially pregnant and breastfeeding women who need the extra protein and iron.

  13. jgkelley says:

    @spinachdip:
    Incorrect.

    Calories in Edamame, Frozen Vegetables Premium Bagged
    Serving Size 2/3 cup (85.0 g)

    Calories: 120
    Calories from Fat: 45
    Total Carbohydrates: 9.0g (3%)
    Protein: 10.0g (11% by weight)

    Please note: this is a conservative estimate. Another listing for soybeans gives the protein content as 16.7% by weight.

    Calories in Hamburger, Large, Single Meat Patty, Plain, Serving Size 1 sandwich (137.0 g)

    Calories: 426
    Calories from Fat: 206
    Total Carbohydrates: 31.7g (11%)
    Protein 22.6g (16%)

    Comparison by percent?
    Soybeans: 11% (and likely, more near 15)
    Hamburger Patty: 16.5%

    Further, your contention is that a bowl full of beans would contain less protein than a deck-sized piece of meat. A bowl would probably contain a cup, upping the amount of protein to around 15g. A deck-sized patty would be significantly smaller than this patty, meaning it would likely contain around 15g of protein. The idea that “PROTEIN JUST CAN’T BE GOTTEN EASILY WITHOUT MEAT” is a common falsehood, as beans/legumes, among other vegetables, would contain a very similar amount of protein if eaten in similar proportions as meat. (Similar not by weight, but by useful nutritional content – weight would be close, but not exact, as meat contains so much more useless fat and carbohydrates.)

    Everyone, please, read your nutrition information before making uninformed claims about what is/is not possible.

    As to the rest of your claim: A stalk of broccoli (230g) contains 10% of your DV of iron. Same for the 2/3 cup of edamame. The 137g piece of meat contains 20%, meaning the edamame is close enough to be negligible, and the broccoli is sufficient.

    My source is calorie-count.com.

  14. FLConsumer says:

    @jgkelley: Only problem with your argument is that you’re assuming the proteins in non-animal sources is the same as those found in meat. Unfortunately, scientists and doctors haven’t quite realised that not all nutrients are made the same way, nor are they processed the same way by the body.

    Trust me, I lived the first 19 years of my life as a vegetarian but ran into health problems that not even the vegetarian nutritionists and doctors I saw could fix. It was actually THEIR suggestion that I start eating meat. Sure enough, it fixed many issues.

  15. FLConsumer says:

    @youbastid: You are correct on this — the problems we’ve had with meat recalls are due to improper processing of the meat, not improper cooking. These bacteria do NOT belong in meat. They’re not found there naturally, instead they happen when the meat is improperly slaughtered and they don’t clean the assembly line properly/frequently enough. You’ll note that the small-time local butchers haven’t had any problems in the past few years.

  16. DallasDMD says:

    @shred: because vegetables have never have been recalled before?

    ::rolls eyes::

  17. LibidinousSlut says:

    @jgkelley: Edame is unfermented soy. Unfermented soy messes with your thyroid, can cause brain shrinkage, man boobs (I’m a chick but still), it can also be an excellent food source for cancer (those isoflavones that they tout as cancer fighting can also be cancer nurturing; messing with hormones is bad). Thanks, but I’ll pass. It’s only in recent times that humans have eaten soy unfermented (i.e. tofu) and even than it’s in general with an iodine rich diet (iodine counteracts a lot of the negative sources of soy); unless your eating large quantities of seaweed or sea animals (mhhh shellfish); you’re probably not getting enough to mitigate the negative effects of soy.

    Finally, the problem with your logic is that it’s reductivist. Food is more than the sum of its (known) parts. We need 20 amino acids (the building blocks of protein) to live. Our bodies can make 10 of them; we must ingest the other 10. No plant source is a complete source of the other 10 amino acids; and they tend to have proteins in a balance that is less conducive for human needs. What this means is if your subsisting on mainly one kind of plant protein (say edamame) you’re malnourished. You need to have a carefully calculated blend of proteins to be ok. And this is only what we know. The reality is that diets with *some* animal products (be they meat, dairy, or eggs) have a long and storied history of producing healthy, happy individuals. The same cannot be true of a diet free of animal products. There are, historically, no long lived vegan societies.

  18. ExecutorElassus says:

    @Fatdogsmells: I kinda agree, but I kinda disagree. The “essential” amino acids – which are the ones we don’t synthesize naturally – are all available in plant sources, and happily missing almost all of the negative side effects that you incur getting them from animal sources. You are correct, that you can’t ever get all your protein from just one source (and that soy is particularly overused and risky); but I don’t think you can fairly say that you must consume animal products to do so (full disclosure is that I’ve been vegan for six years, after being vegetarian for twelve). Yes, you get more omega-3 from sea animals than from seaweed, but you also get lotsa mercury. And a lack of historical precedent is not an argument that the diet isn’t isn’t possible, or better.
    But all this is way off-topic. Maybe, just maybe, if the USDA weren’t as crippled as it is (can’t name the company, can’t force recalls, only gets to inspect on announcement, etc. etc.) this sort of stuff wouldn’t happen.

  19. kimsama says:

    @Fatdogsmells: Ah, yes. I agree with you. I usually try to eat tofu with a crapload of wakame or somesuch for precisely this reason.

    Also, damn fermented soybeans are tasty. I’ve got natto for lunch, baby (with an egg, of course, so I can avoid suspicion that I’m a vegan or something ^_~)

  20. Crotty says:

    We’re talking about “meat” but ground beef from industrial sized farms is particularly and inherently hazardous. The cows spend most of their lives in feed lots, walking in manure, caked in manure, breathing manure dust, on a lot of antibiotics, eating a corn diet their digetive tracts weren’t designed for. It’s at a point where once skinned, the carcasses need to be bathed in disinfectant (and many would like them to be irradiated.) But it’s still pretty safe if you stick steaks or chops or cuts. However, GROUND beef is a different story: in a single patty, meat from many animals is mixed together, and the bacteria permeate the whole, they’re not restricted mostly to the surface as they are in a steak.

    Yummy. Most of us would rather not think about it. Once you start thinking about it, the risk of unfermented soy once or twice a week seems more manageable. Or how about an egg, well cooked? Maybe even a locally produced cheese. Then you get your “protein” and your B12, which is what is really missing from a totally vegan diet.

  21. cashmerewhore says:

    @youbastid:

    Steak should not be charred.

    However, your hamburger should be well done. And your pot pie should be cooked to a specific internal temperature guaranteed to burn the shit outta your mouth if you try to eat it the first five minutes out of the oven/microwave.

  22. meeroom says:

    I am trying to eat less meat that is mass produced, even though it costs a lot more. The result is that I’m making the meat I do buy go further (making soups and stuff out of the leftovers). If a Bell and Evans pack of chicken costs me $20.00, you can bet your sweet ass I’m going to use every bit of it.

  23. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    @shred:

    Too bad it tastes so damn good!

  24. youbastid says:

    @cashmerewhore: But hamburger shouldn’t need to be well done either. Back in the old days, steak tartare – a lump of raw ground beef with a raw egg on top – was a common restaurant item, and stopped being served (for the most part) in America…from the Wikipedia article on it: “In countries with high hygiene standards, this is not a concern and the dish remains very popular.”