Food recalls: US beef in E.coli scare; cyanide in crackers

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

A US meatpacker has recalled about 188,000 pounds of ground beef
and other products because of E. coli bacteria concerns; and
higher-than-normal levels of naturally occuring cyanide were found
in a cassava cracker product in Australia.

Beef fear​ Minnesota-based Rochester Meat Co issued the recall after five illnesses were reported in Wisconsin and one in California, the US Agriculture Department's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service said in a statement at the weekend. The meat may be contaminated with a strain of bacteria (E. coli O157:H7) which could cause serious harm, especially to children, seniors and those with weak immune systems. Batches of the contaminated beef was produced in October and November last year and shipped to distributors across the US for use in restaurants and food service outlets. It was not sold by retailers, according to the USDA. The food inspection department said the problem was found during an investigation launched by the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services and the California Department of Public Health. Ground beef is one of the leading sources of E. coli contamination in the US although cases have dropped thanks to better food safety practices in the meat sector. In 2006, the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef was 0.17 per cent, the same as in 2004 and 2005, according to the FSIS. But three major national outbreaks of the deadly O157:H7 strain in spinach and lettuce that year reminded consumers and the industry of the need for further improvements. Cyanide crackers ​ Food safety authorities in Australia have also alerted consumers to a food recall today after finding higher than normal levels of naturally-occurring cyanide in a cassava-based cracker product. It is not yet clear whether the Piranha Vege Crackers brand sold across Australia are affected but the problem has been identified in some batches in New South Wales. The product is being voluntarily recalled by its manufacturer, Tixana Australia. "While the likelihood of someone getting sick from eating the product is low, as a precaution, consumers, particularly children, are urged not to eat the snack food,"​ said Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) in a nation-wide warning. If cassava has been poorly processed, a substance found in the roots and leaves of the plant called cyanogens can trigger the production of cyanide when eaten. Chronic low-level cyanide exposure is associated with the development of goiter and a nerve-damaging disorder. FSANZ said Tixana has been working closely with State and Commonwealth Governments under the National Food Incident Response Protocol and is voluntarily recalling all batches, flavours and package sizes of the crackers. It is also working with the NSW Food Authority to determine whether the problem is isolated to particular batches. Commonwealth and State Governments met today to determine further actions that may be required.

Related topics: Regulation and safety, Food Outbreaks

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