Inside the Fast-Food Scandal That Changed How Beef Is Regulated

Share:
An inspector examines fresh beef sides for potential contaminants or health issues before the meat is cooled for 42 hours at a Cargill meat packing plant in Fort Morgan, Colo., Nov. 10, 2009. Cargill is participating in trials of a cattle vaccine against e-coli, a pathogen that does not harm cattle but can be dangerous to human health. (Kevin Moloney/The New York Times)

An inspector examines fresh beef sides for potential contaminants or health issues before the meat is cooled for 42 hours at a Cargill meat packing plant in Fort Morgan, Colo., Nov. 10, 2009. Cargill is participating in trials of a cattle vaccine against e-coli, a pathogen that does not harm cattle but can be dangerous to human health. (Kevin Moloney/The New York Times) ( Kevin Moloney / The New York Times)

May 11, 2015

More than 20 years ago, four children were killed in an outbreak of E. coli O157 — a dangerous strain of bacteria that was linked back to undercooked hamburgers from Jack in the Box fast food restaurants.

The regulatory changes sparked by those four deaths — and the more than 700 people who also fell ill — are the subject of Chasing Outbreaks, a new episode of Retro Report that’s now streaming on The New York Times’ website (and that you can also watch at the end of this post).

As Chasing Outbreaks recounts, after the Jack in the Box deaths, the U.S. Department of Agriculture took the unprecedented step of setting a zero-tolerance policy for E. coli O157 in raw ground beef, declaring it an “adulterant.”

But regulators have not taken such decisive action with certain dangerous kinds of salmonella — and FRONTLINE explores the reasons why in tomorrow night’s new documentary, The Trouble with Chicken.

The film looks closely at the largest salmonella poultry outbreak on record, when chicken from Foster Farms — the biggest poultry producer on the West Coast — sickened more than 600 people over 16 months.

Before you watch FRONTLINE’s examination of the threat from salmonella tomorrow night, get the backstory on America’s complex food safety system in Chasing Outbreaks:

 

The Trouble with Chicken premieres Tuesday, May 12 at 10 p.m. EST on PBS and online. Check your local listings here.


Patrice Taddonio

Patrice Taddonio, Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist, FRONTLINE

Twitter:

@ptaddonio

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

'Whose Vote Counts' Wins FRONTLINE’s Second Peabody Award of 2021
The documentary joins FRONTLINE's 'China Undercover' among this year’s Peabody winners.
June 22, 2021
FRONTLINE Wins Peabody Award for 'China Undercover'
The documentary investigated what has been described as the largest mass incarceration of an ethnic group since the Holocaust.
June 21, 2021
Number of Gunshot Victims in Minneapolis is Up 90% From Last Year; Solutions Elusive
As Minneapolis struggles to develop a new approach to public safety amid intense scrutiny of its police department, it faces a depressingly familiar problem: how to curb surging gun violence as the weather warms.
June 19, 2021
The Doctor is Out: Texas Community Worries About Future Without Local Healthcare
The problem the residents of Bowie, TX, face is one that has become more prevalent around the U.S. as at least 136 rural hospitals have closed in the last decade.
June 18, 2021