Beef Company Bankruptcy Filing Makes Us Thankful for Turkey Leftovers

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Nov 26, 2007 3:15PM

2007_11_ground_beef_lean.jpgThanksgiving came at the perfect time for Topps Beef. Two months after the second-largest beef recall in history (over 21 million pounds), the company filed for bankruptcy protection in New Jersey last week; any other time and the news would have been bigger. In the filing, Topps listed assets and debts totaling nearly $100 million each, and over 10,000 creditors lining up for what's theirs, including high-ranking executives at Topps. Seeing as how the recall and fallout from it led to the bankruptcy filing, we wonder if those executives have a real leg to stand on.

The September recall, which went into effect after 40 people in eight sates fell ill to E.coli bacteria, was traced to a Canadian company that supplied beef to Topps. Subsequent investigations by the USDA showed that Topps hadn't adequately tested raw beef it bought from suppliers for E.coli and often mixed tested and untested beef in its grinders. That's not to say that Topps was completely responsible here; the USDA was criticized for their delayed response to the E.coli breakout after it was determined that the beef came from Topps and the effectiveness of their inspection practices were called into question.

The bankruptcy filing will not affect operations for Topps subsidiary J&B meats in Coal Valley, Illinois, near Moline. On the heels of another E.coli-tainted beef recall, we'll be reading labels with even more scrutiny for a while.