Among all the tainted food (especially meat) tragedies that are cropping up these days–enough to make Sinclair Lewis rise up and write again–the tale of an outbreak of E.coli in apparently tainted beef served at a Lutheran church social in Minnesota is one of the saddest. One churchgoer, Carolyn Hawkinson, died after eating meatballs made from beef supplied by Omaha-based Nebraska Beef. So what is the meat company’s response? Blame the church ladies who prepared the smorgasbord and file a lawsuit:
“These are really lovely ladies,” Leatha G. Wolter, the church’s attorney, told the New York Times. “They have collectively, oh, 500 years of cooking experience between them. These women have been cooking years and years and years without incident.”
(At right is Ellie Wheeler, one of those at a church social who became ill. She is suing Nebraska Beef, which is suing her church. Photo via NYTimes.)
The tradition of well-done meat and well-baked casseroles at covered-dish church socials should be enough to have the lawsuit dismissed. But because the church meal was a fundraiser, Nebraska Beef’s lawyer, Gary J. Gordon, says that the church is fair game:
“When you are running it as a money-making venture, why should you be any different from McDonald’s?” Mr. Gordon said. “Nobody is suing the old ladies, to use your term. In the same way that when McDonald’s gets sued, no one sues the nice teenage kid behind the counter.”
Try telling that one to a judge.