Reporting On Contaminated Hamburger Wins 2010 Pulitzer Prize

The 2010 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting was awarded to Michael Moss and members of the New York Times staff, in the words of the Pulitzer Prize committee, for “relentless reporting on contaminated hamburger and other food safety issues that, in print and online, spotlighted defects in federal regulation and led to improved practices.”  In announcing its receipt of this prize, the New York Times summarized the reporting by Mr. Moss as an exploration of “why, 16 years after a major E. coli outbreak attributed to tainted hamburgers, ground beef containing the pathogen remained such a common threat.”

In The Burger That Shattered Her Life, Trail of E. Coli Shows Flaws in Ground Beef Inspection System, published in print by the New York Times on the front page of its Sunday, October 4, 2009 paper, reporter Moss told the story of a single hamburger that infected Stephanie Smith, a 22-year-old children’s dance instructor with E. coli in the fall of 2007 and left her paralyzed.  Michael Moss followed up this report with Company’s Record on Treatment of Beef is Called Into Question published on December 31, 2009,which reported on practices at beef processing plants operated by Beef Products Inc., a supplier to Cargill, one of the nation’s largest hamburger makers.  Beef Products Inc. injects fatty beef trimmings with ammonia to remove E. coli and salmonella.  According to Moss, “Within the U.S.D.A., the treated beef has been a source of friction for years.”

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