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Asked about his agency's investigation, Cohen told me that if GFI had "acted in a deliberate or misleading way," there would have been much more serious consequences, "but at this point, the investigation has not uncovered that there was any criminal intent by the company." He also reminded me that so far, there have been no reports of anyone becoming sick because of the meat.
Which is just about as comforting as this howler on GFI's Web site: "By embracing today's technology, GFI premium foods has maintained their aggressive emphasis on product research, coupled with exceptional quality." Yet GFI can't keep the dog food separate from the people food? How does that happen?
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First, blame GFI, which calls the release "inadvertent." The tainted beef had been stored in a freezer and was mixed with fresh beef this summer only because it was miscoded in the company's computer system, officials explain.
Next, blame the USDA. Its regulations call for contaminated meat to be stored separately from edible products and properly labeled, and its inspectors are supposed to ensure that the meat is disposed of properly. Yet this stuff sat in the coolers of a major meat packager for months, improperly labeled, was eventually combined on nine different occasions with fresh beef headed out to consumers -- and no one knew a thing about it until almost two months later. Why not have a regulation that says any bad meat you find must be labeled with a big red flag that says "POISON" and burned within 24 hours?
Last, we can blame ourselves. What do you get when customers demand ground beef at 59 cents a pound? You get 59-cent meat, folks. You get slaughterhouses that have to produce the stuff so quickly that, on average, a cow is killed once every ten seconds on the dis-assembly lines just to keep up with consumer need; you get meatpackers whose own internal systems of safety checks can't keep up with the amount of production; and you get an industry whose growth has far outstripped the capacity of the USDA to inspect and regulate it.
You absolutely get what you pay for. And that should scare the hell out of you.
Leftovers: Last Thursday was a big day for restaurant openings. Opal (100 East Ninth Avenue), which promises "Nouveau American with a Japanese Attitude," opened to the public after lots of practice on hundreds of friends the night before, serving them platefuls of sushi by Jimmy Tajima (fresh from Nobuin Las Vegas) and Miki Hashimoto (still of Japon), as well as other tidbits by Duy Pham, most recently of Tante Louise. The color scheme has been de-peached, the bar's been expanded, and Bucky Parker, a holdover from the space when it was Radex, promises a late-night menu available until midnight weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends.
Just around the corner, the Parlour(846 Broadway) celebrated its comeback in the former home of Basil Ristorante. A couple of miles down the street on September 12, Heidi's Brooklyn Deli opened its third outpost at 1645 South Broadway in a wonderful old Victorian storefront that briefly held the Banyon Market deli and coffee shop. And yes, Margarita Mama's Mexican Grill and Banana Joe's Island Partyjoined the lineup at Denver Pavilions that same day.
Coral Room (3489 West 32nd Avenue), which recently took over the space once occupied by China West, looks promising; executive chef John Nadasdy (formerly of Rapids Restaurant and Lodge in Grand Lake) is set to impress with the unique retro-Asian-American cuisine that got him mentioned in such lofty places as the pages of Bon Appétit. Christopher Cina, who worked around Denver for several years with the likes of Radek Cerny, Kevin Taylorand Sean Kelly, has returned from a stint as chef garde manger at the Palace Hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland, to take on the post of food-and-beverage manager and executive chef at Tuscany in the Loews Denver Hotel (4150 East Mississippi). And on the lower-priced end of the food chain, Andrew White, the new general manager of the Trail Dust Steakhouse at 9101 Benton Street in Westminster, is overseeing renovations and overhauls that include the addition of the Corral -- an after-hours saloon where customers can enjoy happy-hour specials, watch the game on more than twenty TV screens, and whoop it up 'til the cows come home. Or 1 a.m., whichever comes first.
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