Wednesday, May 13, 2015

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

by Patrice Taddonio

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.