Cause of Beef Contamination Still Unknown

US - Three days after announcing a recall of 21.7 million pounds of ground beef over the weekend, Topps Meat Co. is still trying to determine what caused the E. coli contamination linked to eight cases in New York.
calendar icon 2 October 2007
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The Elizabeth, N.J., company on Saturday recalled 80 ground beef products, including frozen patties, that could fill 542 tractor-trailers as a "safety precaution to customers," said Topps spokeswoman Michele Williams. Topps had recalled more than 300,000 pounds earlier last week.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a suspension of raw meat processes Sept. 26, and Topps won't resume production until it submits a corrective-action plan, said Amanda Eamich, a spokeswoman for federal agency.

USDA officials found that Topps included meat from one day's operations and then mixed it with the next day's batch, a practice the USDA doesn't prohibit. However, companies must be cautious.

"It must be handled in a manner to prevent growth of pathogens," said Eamich.

The investigation is ongoing.

As of yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 27 E. coli cases in eight states were linked by the same strain, said Dr. Mike Lynch of the CDC.

The state Health Department reported eight cases of E. coli in Albany, Monroe, Washington, Essex, Rensselaer and Herkimer counties. Six of the eight cases are linked to the outbreak strain.

No cases have surfaced on Long Island. Yesterday, local Waldbaum's, King Kullen, Stop & Shop and Pathmark stores had already removed the recalled meat. Pathmark's five- and 10-pound store brand hamburgers contain Topps's meat. Those products are included in the recall, and customers can return them for a refund.


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