Monday, February 22, 2010

Cargill Passes the Buck on E. coli Contaminated Patties

Cargill has admitted that it was responsible for making the E. coli O157:H7 contaminated ground beef patties that ultimately paralyzed a Minnesota woman back in 2007. That woman is purportedly suing Cargill for $100 million.

What's interesting about this is that Cargill is aknowledging that it's product was contaminated and directly responsible for the woman's illness, but it is claiming the liability should lie elsewhere. According to the processor, the contaminated beef came from suppliers who claimed it had already been tested. This, combined with Cargill's statement that its actions have been subject to and in adherence with rules dictated by the Federal Meat Inspection Act, add up to Cargill essentially passing the buck down the supply chain to those suppliers who ostensibly failed to identify the contamination.

Two different outcomes would both be in the public interest here, though we're not assured of either of them. If the victim successfully wins a settlement from Cargill, that might force the producer to re-test its meat and demand better from its suppliers. If the victim successfully wins a settlement from the suppliers, that would send the message to these suppliers that processors like Cargill won't protect them from the consequences of their actions. Unfortunately, the most likely scenario is that Cargill will simultaneously deny responsibility and claim that it is impossible to identify exactly which supplier would be liable - essentially arguing that although this woman's illness is clearly somebody's fault, we can't say who, so she can't recover damages.

Good arguments for both stricter testing and inspection requirements, and for true traceability.

A report on this from industry friendly

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