Food safety experts explain recent outbreaks

Food safety experts are sharing advice on handling food following a handful of massive food recalls within recent weeks. 

Monday, JBS Tolleson expanded a recall to include 6,046 tons of beef produced and packaged at their Arizona facility. The meat was shipped to retailers across the country under many brand names.

“It was clear that there were products that made people sick that hadn’t been included in the original recall,” said Craig Hedberg, a food safety expert with the Minnesota School of Public Health.

The recall, which started in October, expanded over salmonella contamination concerns after the number of people sick drastically increased in recent weeks. Of the now 246 people poisoned across 25 states, nearly 60 have been hospitalized.

While many of the cases are in Arizona, California and Colorado, two cases have been reported in Minnesota.

“If you’re going to visit friends or relatives in California or Arizona, it’s possible you could have an exposure to this ground beef while you’re there visiting with people,” said Hedberg.

Hedberg says there are two key reasons it seems these contamination outbreaks keep happening: improved surveillance and the amount of large food distribution networks.

“So if there is a problem that creeps into a product it tends to be a become a big one frequently,” he said.

Given that it's only been two weeks since the romaine lettuce recall, Hamline University food law Professor David Graham says more can be done to keep people from getting sick in the first place.

“People’s food preparation, cleaning their produce, and also regulations on all levels of production, whether they be small growers or large growers,” said Graham.

Graham says the goal for the USDA is to eliminate germs from all meat, so none are contaminated. Since salmonella is a naturally-occurring bacteria, it's hard to remove it from beef and poultry without great expense or taking out nutrients.