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The Los Angeles Times this morning reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is defending its decision “to wait 18 days before seeking the recall of millions of pounds of ground beef after initial tests showed E. coli contamination, saying it followed standard policy to rule out other factors.

“Department officials acknowledged that they knew as early as Sept. 7 that frozen hamburger patties could be contaminated after a federal inspector confirmed that preliminary tests indicated the E. coli bacteria.”

More than 20 million pounds of meat produced by the Topps Meat Co. has been recalled to this point. About 29 people reportedly have gotten sick because of the meat. Nobody has died. The first class action suit against Topps – as well as a number of retailers that sold the beef – was filed yesterday.

"We recognize that we can do better," USDA spokeswoman Terri Teuber said. "One of the things we're looking at for future recalls is to determine whether the science is strong enough in some cases that we should authoritatively move forward sooner."
KC's View:
It should be pointed out that the government only admitted the delay because the Associated Press obtained an internal USDA email about it, according to the Times story.

If there is any soul-searching going on, it may have more to do with searching for the poor soul who leaked the email.