Topps Recall Expanded, Source of E. Coli Remains Mystery

US - The Topps Meat Company has expanded its recall of frozen meat products from 331,582 pounds to 21.7 million pounds; two dozen illnesses have been reported; and the source of E. coli has not been identified yet.
calendar icon 5 October 2007
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The USDA announced Wednesday that several cases of E. coli O157:H7 contamination had led to a voluntary recall of frozen hamburgers produced by the Elizabeth, New Jersey-based Topps Meat Company.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the situation Wednesday, saying almost two dozen people may be contaminated. Illnesses have been reported in Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the CDC and the USDA said.

Topps assured health authorities of its full support and cooperation. Friday, the USDA began its investigation of the company’s plant and its suppliers. USDA spokeswoman Amanda Eamich said inspectors were verifying the Elizabeth, N, J.-based company’s sanitation measures against E. coli.

“We are investigating the facility in response to the illnesses associated with the consumption of the products,” Eamich said Friday. “That also includes looking back to their suppliers.”

The investigation of the Topps facility has not been without results, as the USDA found that meat-handling procedures were not respected thoroughly. According to, Richard Raymond, the Agriculture Department's undersecretary for food safety, said the company kept meat from one day's operations and then mixed it into the next day's batch.

Raymond also urged consumers to check their freezers and throw out any remaining Topps products.

The USDA is still trying to identify the source of the bacteria.

If symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach cramps and bloody stool appear, they should seek immediate medical attention. E. coli contamination is potentially deadly for children, the elderly and people with a weakened immune system. In extreme cases, it can cause kidney failure.

The USDA said no fatalities have been registered so far.

The recall release from the Food and Drug Administration, dated Sept. 29, reads: “There are currently 25 illnesses under investigation …. An investigation carried out by the New York department of Health in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, preceded the recall of Sept. 25.”

Topps has said that this is its first recall in its 65-year history.

Topps representative Cortney McMahon has stated that the meat producer is fully cooperating with federal health officials, while Geoffrey Livermore, the company's operations vice president, confirmed that Topps “is concerned with the safety and welfare of all our customers and we are deeply concerned for those who became ill.”

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