What are the most common reasons for a meat recall?

Processed deli meat is often remembered.

Regulations govern food safety around the world, but it’s not uncommon for companies to make a large-scale recall of potentially dangerous meat products. This usually happens because the company or government has found a potential for contamination by a foreign body that makes the meat unsafe. Often the contaminant is a form of bacteria and can be similar to contaminants found in dairy. Contamination of meat products can occur in factories and processing plants where proper hygiene is not observed, or it can be present in the meat of the animal when it enters the plant.

Meat department in a grocery store.

One of the most common contaminants responsible for a meat recall is Escherichia coli, also known as E. coli. These bacteria are often found in animal feces or in water that has come into contact with contaminated waste products. If meat processing plants do not follow proper health and sanitation guidelines, raw meat can become contaminated. Although E. coli is killed when raw meat is properly cooked to 160°F (71°C), many companies will issue a meat recall rather than risk making the consumer sick.

Some outbreaks of salmonellosis have been linked to raw chicken.

Another type of bacteria responsible for companies that recall meats is Listeria monocytogenes, found in chicken, pork and processed meats. In some cases, the recalls have also extended to products such as soups and salads that contain meat products from processors where there has been a sanitation violation. Severe contamination can result in the development of a fatal disease in individuals or in miscarriages in pregnant women. The bacteria can be particularly deadly to children and the elderly.

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E. coli is a common medium contaminant.

Salmonella contamination is also a common cause of meat recall; some span entire countries and may evolve into international recalls. Typically found in chicken and other poultry, salmonella can also be found in some of the seasonings and prep ingredients used in the production of processed meats, such as deli cuts. Like E. coli, salmonella is usually killed when cooked at the proper temperature; however, companies that find batches of contaminated products often recall the meat to help ensure that no consumer gets sick.

Sometimes there is a meat recall issued for products intended for animal consumption. Dog, cat and rawhide feeds can also be contaminated with bacteria that make them dangerous not only for pet consumption, but also for humans who handle the food. Pets can show many of the same symptoms as humans when given contaminated food.

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