South Lake residents grapple with mad-cow scare |

South Lake residents grapple with mad-cow scare

Gregory Crofton

Most South Shore residents didn’t worry about grabbing a burger Wednesday despite a mad-cow alert issued the day before.

Trudy Jones and her son, Michael, ordered cheeseburgers for lunch knowing that three restaurants at South Lake Tahoe had ground beef recalled by the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recalled about 10,000 pounds of ground beef on Dec. 26 after one cow slaughtered in Washington state tested positive for mad-cow disease.

“The beef trade is really regulated in this country – it’s a multimillion-dollar business,” Jones, a South Lake Tahoe resident, said. “People should be more careful of sheep. They’re not as regulated.”

The USDA does not require restaurants that served the recalled meat to be identified to the public. And none have voluntarily stepped forward.

Sno-Flake Drive In, a popular spot to get a cheeseburger, said it was not one of the three restaurants subjected to the recall. Owner Pete Richards didn’t seem worried about the impact the news could have on his business.

“Business has not changed,” Richards said. “Typically, this time of year everybody is making New Year’s resolutions. We see a lot more salads and health foods like chicken. That usually lasts about a month.”

Diane Wurzer of South Lake Tahoe ordered fried zucchini sticks at Sno-Flake. She said she’s not a big fan of ground beef, and after learning of the recalled meat making it to Tahoe, she plans to stay away from the food for a while.

“Not until they get some kind of control and make sure when they slaughter they are not putting in the brains,” Wurzer said. “Because you don’t know what’s in hamburger. It’s all mashed up. You don’t know what they’re doing.”

Debbie Mason, 55, and Sandi Burns, 37, both of South Lake Tahoe, ordered chicken at Sno-Flake.

They said they are not scared to eat beef and had they wanted a burger they would have ordered one.

“I haven’t decided not to,” Burns said. “Knowing it came to Tahoe, I am a little leery. I understand why they don’t want to disclose the restaurants, but I don’t think it’s fair to people.”

Burns and Mason work at a dental office. They said one patient came in thinking she had mad-cow disease because she was in pain and her mouth was swollen.

“She was dead serious,” Mason said.

“Once they start slacking off on the hype, people will just go back to normal,” Mason said. “That’s what they did with the flu. Everybody needs to get flu shots. Now nobody cares about the flu.”

Outside Albertsons, only one person questioned said they were concerned about eating beef.

“I think the lack of information about the restaurants is really unfair,” said Carrie Hurwitz of South Lake Tahoe.

Tom Stewart, 62, of South Lake Tahoe walked out of Albertsons with a package of fresh hamburger.

“I’ve been around the beef industry for years,” Stewart said. “My grandfather was a butcher. I’m not worried a bit. It’s all hearsay until they finally figure it out. I think they are going overboard.”

n People with food safety questions should call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854.

Gregory Crofton can be reached at or (530) 542-8045.