Processed meat recalls are at an all-time high due to the increasing frequency of non-edible fragments found in the popular products. A Washington Post analysis reveals a startling trend of metal, plastic and glass contaminants in processed meat products. In fact, meat recalls due to foreign objects occur at record numbers. For consumers, not only is the thought of non-edible materials in food unappetizing, but it poses a very real risk of injury.
Record Number of Processed Meat Recalls
In 2009, there were just five processed meat recalls. These recalls included around one million pounds of products. Since 2009, there have been 150 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recalls due to foreign objects or stray materials. There have been 34 processed meat recalls in 2019 along – totaling around 17 million pounds of products. These recalls involve products that contain stray materials like glass, rubber and metal.
Why are so many products now at risk for stray materials? Analysts attribute it to a variety of factors, such as:
- Metal parts breaking off of machinery that manufacturers use to chop, puree and mix ingredients.
- Workers in plants wear rubber gloves, which may fall off into products being mixed.
- Glass and plastic meat packaging and ingredient containers are dropped into products and are ground up into meat mixes.
- Lack of adequate surveillance along the processing line and at critical points of processing and packaging.
- Manufacturers are speeding up production, which does not allow for proper inspection and quality testing. This also jeopardizes the safe function of the equipment. But still, manufacturers are operating above what the machines can do. For example, a machine designed to operate at 10 feet per minute is operated at 40 feet per minute to speed up production.
- Manufacturers may use old equipment, which cannot keep up with the demand of manufacturing.
Why Recalls are Increasing
Three USDA inspectors told the Washington Post that speeding production, poor maintenance and old equipment are the biggest reasons why recalls are increasing. When equipment malfunctions or is contaminating products and plant workers do not report it or stop production, stray materials can contaminate millions of products.
Unfortunately, many contaminated products are discovered “midstream” meaning a deli or restaurant discovers the foreign objects and files a report to the USDA. While this is positive since consumers are not at risk, it highlights the lack of surveillance and inspections during manufacturing.
Another reason why processed meat recalls are on the rise is because more consumers are filing complaints. As consumers bring their experiences forward, manufacturers must respond according to USDA guidelines. An increase in complaints leads to an increase in recalls.
Processed Meat Recalls Include Popular Brands and Products
To make matters worse, many of the recalls in 2019 are among manufacturers and brands that consumers trust. Some of the most recognizable recalls involve:
- Tyson Foods
- Jimmy Dean
- Perdue Foods, LLC
- Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen
- Johnsonville, LLC
- Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation
- Boston Market Homestyle Meals
- El Monterey
The products included in processed meat recalls vary considerably. Some products are marinated raw meat, while others are fully-cooked and ready to serve. Many recalls involve sausage, breaded chicken, burritos, deli meat and stews.
X-Ray Food Inspection
In today’s technological age, it may not be surprising that we can use technology for a variety of industries. X-ray technology, for example, is not just for the human body. It is increasingly used to examine food samples and check for the presence of contaminants. Many manufacturers are installing x-ray machines and metal detectors in their plants. Some of them are installing the machines in various locations throughout the processing line.
Unfortunately, x-ray technology and metal detection are not without limits. For example, raw meat contains niacin and iron, so metal detectors must allow a certain amount of metals and minerals through. Consequently, small metal shavings could be viewed as a normal level of metal, and the product be distributed to consumers.
“Bone, muscle and other tissues contain iron, niacin and other metals,” said Mark Dopp, vice president of the North American Meat Institute. “You can’t set the machines to a highly sensitive level, or they will go off even when there is no contamination.”
This statement may be true from a manufacturing standpoint, but it does little to relieve the anxiety of consumers who are afraid of suffering injury while merely enjoying a meal.
What Consumers Should Know
Processed meat recalls are likely increasing because consumers are filing complaints more often. That is the best course of action for consumers. Remaining silent allows manufacturers to continue their dangerous processes and puts other consumers at risk.
Consumers also have legal rights and may have grounds to take legal action. Foreign objects are an incredible risk to consumers who may suffer:
- Dental injuries
- Puncture to the esophagus, jaw, tongue or perioral tissue
- Injury to the stomach, intestine or rectum
- Intestinal blockage requiring surgery
- Foodborne illness
There are federal laws that govern foods and impose penalties and fines on manufacturers who distribute contaminated food that causes injury. Many states also have specific laws that allow injured consumers the ability to file a lawsuit against a manufacturer, processor or seller. These lawsuits allow consumers the ability to pursue compensation for injuries they suffer due to the negligence of a manufacturer, processor or seller.
A successful lawsuit can provide compensation for the victim, including:
- Coverage of medical expenses
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Wrongful death
Get Help with Your Foreign Object Claim
If you are suffering an injury due to a foreign object found in your food, contact Bad Food Recall. Let our food safety attorney review your case and determine if you have an actionable claim. If so, we can help you build and prove your claim. Our legal team has vast experience handling cases involving recalled, mislabeled and contaminated foods. We certainly take recalls, including processed meat recalls, very seriously.
Find out if you have a claim by calling us toll free at 1-877-534-5750. You can also request more information or get answers to your questions by filling out our online form.