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Settlement Reached in Beef Recall Suit

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Cow signA settlement has been reached in a lawsuit between Nebraska Beef and Colorado-based Meyer Natural Foods, LLC. Originally set to go to trial next month, the lawsuit was filed in 2009 over the question of who should be liable for the seven million pounds of beef recalled (in two separate instances) in the wake of a staggering 79 cases of E. Coli illness. [Details can be found on the Fooborne Illness Outbreak Database.] At least some of this meat came from cattle purchased by Meyer and sent to Nebraska Beef to be processed.

Timberly Ross, a writer for the Associated Press, brings us some details in a recent posting on The Republic:

The judge’s order filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Omaha said attorneys for both companies notified the court the dispute was settled. Terms have not been disclosed, and the judge ordered both sides to file a motion to dismiss the case by April 25.

Messages left Saturday for attorneys in the case were not immediately returned.

Nebraska Beef’s lawsuit said legal claims related to the recalled beef had been made against Meyer, which wanted Nebraska Beef to indemnify it against any liability for the tainted meat. But Nebraska Beef denies the contamination originated at its processing plant and says it did not breach the terms of its contract with Meyer. So, Nebraska Beef wanted the court to declare that it’s not obligated to indemnify Meyer.

Since most of the meat recalled in 2008 was sent to other companies for additional processing, it makes it very hard to pin down when exactly the E. Coli contamination occurred. Nebraska Beef was also the target of at least four different lawsuits after the recalls.

Contaminated food is a serious issue, that can cause illness, or possibly even death. The nature of the food industry can make it very hard to track down where the contaminants enter the process, since processing occurs at multiple locations and facilities.

Image by mrbill (Bill Bradford), used under its Creative Commons license.


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