A Tyson spokesman has declined to respond to the accusation, but said that the company did not prohibit grinders from testing and that some of its customers did conduct some of their own testing, beyond the testing that Tyson performs.
The report by The Times focused on the hamburger patties that precipitated one of the 16 outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 since 2007, and the injuries suffered by a children’s dance instructor, Stephanie Smith, now 22. While most E. coli victims recover, Ms. Smith developed kidney and brain injuries, and emerged from a coma partly paralyzed.
In a statement this week, Cargill, the food giant that made the hamburger eaten by Ms. Smith, said it was committed to continuous improvements in food safety. “Our hearts go out to Ms. Smith and her family, as well as the others whose lives have been so affected by O157:H7,” Cargill said.
Like other hamburger grinders, Cargill tests its ground beef for the pathogen only after it mixes trim from multiple suppliers, and Cargill officials told the U.S.D.A. that they could not identify the slaughterhouse that shipped the tainted beef in Ms. Smith’s burger, company and government records showed. Slaughterhouses are viewed as the most likely source of E. coli because the pathogen emerges from fecal matter on hides and in the digestive tracts of cattle.