by Hilary Oliver
Whole Foods Market said Monday in The New York Times that it's tightening oversight of its suppliers. The company recalled fresh ground beef Aug. 8 sold in stores that carry Coleman Natural products processed by Nebraska Beef, which recalled 1.2 million pounds of beef possibly contaminated with E. coli. About 4 percent of that beef was destined for Whole Foods stores in 23 states and Washington, D.C. On Tues., Aug. 12, Whole Foods extended its recall to include four more states: Colorado, Kansas, Mexico and Utah.
Whole Foods acknowledged that in not noticing Coleman had begun using Nebraska Beef for processing, it failed to catch an important change, the Times reported. Whole Foods said it is instituting new procedures to detect such changes in the future and will take a broad review of its procedures for approving suppliers and scrutinizing the quality of products.
The recall was a hit to the reputation of Whole Foods, a chain customers tend to trust for higher standards of safety and nutrition. The recall was also a blow to the Coleman name, as Nebraska Beef has a history of violations and contention with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, having been written up several times and shut down three times for sanitation violations since 2000. Nebraska Beef had also been slow to respond to indications that its product might be tainted, a USDA spokeswoman told the Associated Press Monday.
Coleman Natural Foods, which sold its beef business to Meyer Natural Angus on June 1, did not do business with Nebraska Beef before the acquisition, according to Katie Coakley, a Coleman spokeswoman. However, the sale stipulated that Meyer could use the Coleman name through the next year. A Meyer Natural Angus spokesman did not respond to NFM by press time. Jay Jacobowitz, president of Retail Insights in Brattleboro, Vt., said he has already noticed retailers opting out of carrying Coleman beef products as local suppliers have come on-stream, and adverse events such as this recall might encourage more retailers to look elsewhere for their beef supply.