Processed Meat Recalls Involving Contaminants Like Metal and Plastic Significantly Increase
Pieces of metal, hard plastic, rubber and even glass are getting increasingly mixed and baked into processed meat products triggering a record number of safety recalls. According to the Washington Post’s analysis of federal records, in 2019 alone, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced 34 recalls involving 17 million pounds of meat products after such foreign objects were found in them. That is a significant increase from a decade in 2009 when there were only five such recalls involving 1 million pounds of meat.
What is causing this spike in meat recalls involving pieces of rubber, plastic, metal and glass? The Post says it is due to metal parts breaking off machines that process foods. Plant workers’ rubber gloves are falling into meat mixes as well as pieces of glass and hard plastic from meat packaging containers. The makers of some of the most popular brands of ready-to-use meat products such as Tyson, Jimmy Dean and Spam have issued similar recalls.
Faster Production Schedules and Aging Machines
The stray items, which the USDA refers to as “foreign objects,” are typically found after a consumer bites into a meat product. They can suffer injuries ranging from chipped teeth and choking to damage to the intestinal tract. Industry experts say a number of changes such as increased production speeds have led to such food contamination.
In fact, USDA inspectors speaking to the Post on conditions of anonymity, said faster production lines, aging equipment and poor equipment maintenance are playing a major role in the increase of contaminants in food products. Consumers who have been affected are taking their complaints to social media posting photos of the contaminated food.
The Post’s analysis shows that the spike in the recalls started in 2016. Plastic pieces accounted for nearly half of the recalls for foreign objects and metal for nearly 25%. The rest of the recalled food was contaminated with rubber, glass, cardboard or wood. Metal detectors and X-ray machines, which are commonly used in food processing plants to detect foreign objects, have their limitations. Because meat contains iron and niacin, metal detectors must allow for some level of metal and mineral content. So screws and metal shavings from malfunctioning machinery may slip through.
Focus on Safety
The fact that children are biting into food with pieces of metal, plastic, glass and rubber that could cause serious oral and/or internal injuries is absolutely unacceptable. There is no question that a lack of quality control processes and negligence in failing to replace or repair aging machinery, among other things, is causing such dangerous food contamination.
If you or a loved one has been injured or sickened by contaminated food products, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the food manufacturer and other potentially liable parties seeking compensation for your injuries, damages and losses. An experienced California personal injury lawyer will be able to advise you regarding your legal rights and options.