By Joel Hall
Last week, officials from the federal Food and Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) discovered E. coli bacteria in samples of ground beef during a routine inspection of the Arko Veal Co., located at 406 Main Street in Forest Park.
An Oct. 13 press release, issued on the official FSIS web site said that test samples from several 50-pound cases of "beef patties mix" tested positive for E. Coli 0157:H7, a potentially deadly strain of bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and, occasionally, kidney failure, particularly in children and the elderly.
The beef patties were produced between Oct. 7 and Oct. 9, and distributed to restaurants in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
In response, Arko Veal Co., voluntarily recalled 1,900 pounds of ground beef, which bore the USDA inspection number of "Est. 20766" and the product code number "502250."
In Georgia, the beef was sent to four restaurants, two of which were in DeKalb County, one in Cherokee County, and the other in Carroll County. None of the infected patties made it to Clayton County, according to the company.
Arkady Miretsky, president of Arko Veal Co., and a native of Russia, said this was the first time his meat packing company has ever had to do a recall. A resident of Dunwoody for the last five years, Miretsky moved his company from it's original location on Covington Highway in Decatur to Forest Park four years ago.
After inspectors from FSIS discovered possible beef contamination, Miretsky said that he had an independent, Woodstock, Ga. food inspector conduct a test of the same meat, the samples of which came back negative on Monday, he said. However, rather than take the risk, Miretsky voluntary recalled the meat, sending trucks to pick it up from restaurants before it was consumed.
"Why did I recall?" asked Miretsky. "Because I didn't want to take the chances. There is no danger for the public at all, because 100 percent of the product was recalled."
Miretsky said he questioned the test methods of the FSIS, which he said will often send test samples to different states for testing and will delay the results for several days.
"My lab is in Woodstock," he said. "It takes about one hour before they get to the microscope. I have a lot of questions about the way they tested it. That's a nation-wide issue, not a Clayton County issue."
In response to the recall, Miretsky said that starting this week, Arko Veal Co., will add sodium acetate to all of its ground-meat products. The chemical, which gives salt and vinegar chips their flavor, can also be added to foods as a preservative.
"That is going to eliminate any problem," said Miretsky. "Some restaurants don't like to add any additives, but I don't want to go through this hell again."