Burger King back in burger business
Restaurant chain won't buy Hudson beef
August 23, 1997
Web posted at: 7:39 p.m. EDT (2339 GMT)
OMAHA, Nebraska (CNN) -- Burger King restaurants got back in the burger business Saturday, as new shipments of ground beef arrived to replace patties recalled Thursday because of possible bacterial contamination.
At a press conference in Omaha, Burger King officials said the company would no longer buy beef from Hudson Foods, the Arkansas-based beef processor that was the subject of the ground beef recall.
In a written statement, Hudson Foods expressed "serious disappointment" in the decision. "We remain convinced that the problem was brought into the plant by an outside supplier," said Hudson's statement. Burger King was the Columbus plant's major customer.
Events leading up to the nation's largest-ever beef recall began when hamburger patties made at Hudson's Columbus, Nebraska, plant made 16 people ill in Colorado because of E. coli contamination.
After inspecting the plant, the U.S. Department of Agriculture asked Hudson to close the facility and recall all of the hamburger made there since early June because inspectors found that the company saved unpackaged meat overnight and added it to the next day's production. So they could not ensure that contaminated beef had not found its way into subsequent days' production.
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Burger King most affected by recall
Burger King, Wal-Mart, Boston Market, Safeway and Sam's Club were all affected by the recall. But the biggest impact by far was at Burger King -- 1,650 restaurants in 28 states, or one out of every four Burger Kings, had to take burgers off their menus.
Only restaurants on the East and West Coasts and in Alaska and Hawaii were spared.
Some restaurants substituted ham and cheese sandwiches or bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwiches, for the beef items, and beef's main competitors -- fish and chicken -- got a boost in sales.
After scrambling to find new beef suppliers, all of the Burger King stores had burgers back on the menu by Saturday evening. The company also was preparing a nationwide advertising campaign to assure consumers its hamburgers are safe.
'You can't have Burger King without burgers'
Burger King reported slumping sales Thursday and Friday. For some consumers, substitutes would not suffice.
"You can't have Burger King without burgers," said David Clouse, who left after learning there were no burgers at a restaurant in Arapahoe County, Colorado. "It's just not the same."
"Why walk in and order food when you've heard bad reports about the meat?" asked Virginia Betts as she ordered breakfast at a Burger King in Omaha. "In the back of your mind, you're always wondering, 'Have they sent all the bad meat back?'"
But at a Burger King in Cincinnati late Friday, Joel Bishop wolfed down a double Whopper.
"I ate apples during the Alar scare, too," he said. "This country overreacts to everything. The sky is always falling."
Case in Wyoming investigated for E. coli
Using genetic fingerprinting technology, Colorado's health department linked 16 cases of E. coli poisoning to the Hudson plant. Colorado is one of only 11 states that uses DNA testing to track down and contain outbreaks of infectious diseases, including food-borne diseases such as salmonella and E. coli.
Health officials also are investigating a possible 17th case, a Wyoming man who is believed to be suffering from a bacterial infection. If scientists find he has contracted the same strain of E. coli as the Colorado patients, it could mean that a new cluster of infections is spreading regionally.