Regulations govern worldwide food safety, but it is not unusual for companies to issue a large-scale recall of potentially dangerous meat products. This often happens because the company or a government has found a potential for contamination by a foreign body that makes the meat unsafe. Many times, the contaminant is a form of bacteria and can be similar to contaminants found in dairy products. Contamination of meat products can happen in factories and processing plants where proper hygiene is not observed, or may be present in the meat of the animal when it enters the plant.
One of the most common contaminants responsible for a meat recall is Escherichia coli, also known as E. coli. These bacteria are often found in animal feces or in water that has been in contact with contaminated waste products. If meat-processing plants do not follow proper health and sanitation guidelines, raw meat can become contaminated. Although E. coli is killed when raw meat is properly cooked to 160° F (71° C), many companies will issue a meat recall rather than risk consumer illness.
Another type of bacteria responsible for companies issuing a meat recall is Listeria monocytogenes, found in chicken, pork, and processed deli meats. In some cases, recalls have also extended to products such as soups and salads that contain meat products from processors where there has been a breach in sanitation. Serious contamination can result in individuals developing a fatal illness or pregnant women suffering miscarriagesl the bacteria can be particularly deadly to the very young and the elderly.
Salmonella contamination is also a common cause of a meat recall; some span entire countries and can develop into international recalls. Typically found in chicken and other poultry, salmonella can also be found in some of the seasonings and prep ingredients used in the production of processed meats, such as deli cuts. Like E. coli, salmonella is usually killed when cooked to the proper temperature; however, companies that find batches of contaminated product will generally recall the meat to help ensure that no consumers get sick.
Sometimes, there is a meat recall issued for products designed for animal consumption. Dog food, cat food, and rawhide chews can also become contaminated with bacteria that make them dangerous not only for consumption by pets, but also for the humans who handle the foods. Pets can demonstrate many of the same symptoms as humans when given contaminated foods.