Cargill suing Greater Omaha Packing over recall

by Bryan Salvage
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OMAHA — On Aug. 5, Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. filed a federal lawsuit against Greater Omaha Packing Company Inc., charging it supplied contaminated beef that sickened dozens of people, according. Cargill said it bought beef trimmings from the company to make ground beef. In August 2007, after four Minnesota children got sick from E. coli contamination, approximately 845,000 lbs. of the beef was voluntarily recalled by the company.

“Cargill holds itself accountable for the food we produce, and we expect nothing less from our suppliers,” said a Cargill statement e-mailed to MEATPOULTRY.com. “This is particularly important for food safety and public health."

In a statement sent to MEATPOULTRY.com, Henry Davis, president of Greater Omaha Packing Co. Inc., said: “All products from Greater Omaha Packing Co. Inc. that were shipped to Cargill were tested for E. coli O157:H7 by an independent lab, IEH Laboratories, and all products tested negative.”

A 2009 New York Times story reported that, based on Cargill’s production records, there were several suppliers that provided raw beef trim that was used to produce the product that was recalled, the statement added.

“As reported in the New York Times on October 3, 2009, some of the raw beef trim that was used by Cargill to produce the recalled ground beef was imported from foreign sources and not shown to have been tested for E. coli O157:H7,” Davis continued.

The recall initiated in mid-August 2007 included frozen ground beef patties processed at CMS’ plant in Butler, Wis., and distributed nationwide to stores, restaurants and other institutions. The recall was put into play after the Minnesota Department of Health traced the children's illnesses to the beef. Cargill spokesman Mike Martin said the tainted meat was linked to at least several dozen illnesses, including those in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Tennessee. The illnesses ranged from mild to serious, but no deaths were reported, he said.

Filed in US District Court in Omaha, the lawsuit charges Greater Omaha Packing violated the terms of its sales agreement with Cargill by providing contaminated meat. Cargill’s lawsuit requested a jury trial and seeks unspecified monetary damages to cover the costs of the recall, lost profits, damage to reputation and attorneys’ fees. Cargill's insurance company is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit seeking unspecified monetary damages to cover the costs of the recall, lost profits, damage to reputation and attorneys' fees.

American Home Assurance Company, based in New York City, said it should be compensated for payments made to people who got sick.

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