E.coli outbreaks lead to meat recall: More than 500,000 pounds of ground beef recalled

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After two deaths and more than two dozen people taking ill from E.coli, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is recalling 545,699 pounds of fresh ground beef products sold from Maine to North Carolina.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with health and agriculture departments in Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts connected the E.coli cases to beef that was prepared at a plant in upstate New York, the USDA said. All the meat was processed at Fairbank Farms in Ashville, N.Y.

UPDATE:
The CDC announced the outbreak now has victims coast-to-coast, stretching from Maine to California. The 28 people known to have gotten sick with the same strain of e.Coli live in 12 states: California (1), Connecticut (4), Massachusetts (8), Maryland (1), Maine (2), Minnesota (1), New Hampshire (4), New Jersey (1), New York (1), Pennsylvania (2), South Dakota (2), and Vermont (1), the CDC said. Of those, 16 were hospitalized and three suffered kidney failure, the CDC reported.

The meat was sold in August and September, with sell-by dates as late as Oct. 7, in stores including Trader Joes, Price Chopper, Shaw's (including the Wild Harvest organic line), BJ's, ACME, Ford Brothers and Giant. The Fairbank Farms site has images of the packaging of the products recalled here and here.

If you have the recalled meat, either dispose of it or return it to the place of purchase.

Fairbank Farms' web site today was only carrying the recall information. Underlying pages were blanked out. In a cached copy of the section on food safety, the company boasts of its ability to catch E.coli before its products go to market:

"Fairbank Farms and American Fresh Foods are committed to continuously supply the safest, highest quality ground beef products to our customers," the site said in the cache captured on Aug. 22. "We have established a food safety objective designed to detect very low levels of E. coli O157:h7 in the production system and restrict affected product from entering commerce. This food safety objective protects Fairbank Farms, American Fresh Foods and our customer's valuable reputation."

The head of the company issued a statement of its commitment to cooperating in the recall.

"Fairbank Farms is committed to providing the most up-to-date information. The company and its customers are taking all precautions necessary to ensure consumer safety and welfare," says Ron Allen, CEO of Fairbank Farms. "We're assisting our customers in conducting this recall, and continue to urge consumers to check their freezers for ground beef products that are listed in the recall. Consumers who identify these products should return them to the point of purchase for a full refund."

Consumers can get more information from the CDC here about the deadly bacterium E.coli.

One of the deaths was reported in New York and the other in New Hampshire.

"This is a stark reminder that food is still going straight to our kitchens, and grocery stores without being properly tested to ensure its safety," U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D.-N.Y.) said in a statement. "It's spreading too many diseases and costing too many lives. We need to do a better job of catching contaminated food before it ever comes close to a kitchen table or a school lunch counter."

She also praised Fairbank Farms for initiating the recall.

The USDA says the following products are subject to the recall:

Trader Joes
  • 1-pound packages of "TRADER JOE'S BUTCHER SHOP FINE QUALITY MEATS GROUND BEEF 85/15."
  • 1-pound packages of "TRADER JOE'S BUTCHER SHOP FINE QUALITY MEATS GROUND BEEF 80/20
NOTE: The sell-by dates for the above two products may be October 6 or 7, 2009.
  • 1-pound trays of "TRADER JOE'S BUTCHER SHOP FINE QUALITY MEATS GROUND BEEF PATTIES 96/4 EXTRA LEAN."
  • 1-pound trays of "TRADER JOE'S BUTCHER SHOP FINE QUALITY MEATS GROUND BEEF PATTIES 85/15."
Price Chopper
  • 1- and 2.5-pound trays of "PRICE CHOPPER MEATLOAF & MEATBALL MIX."
  • 1-pound trays of "PRICE CHOPPER EXTRA LEAN GROUND BEEF 96/4."
  • 1-pound trays of "PRICE CHOPPER FRESH GROUND BEEF CHUCK FOR CHILI 80% LEAN 20% FAT."
Lancaster and Wild Harvest
  • 1-pound trays of "LANCASTER BRAND 96/4 EXTRA LEAN GROUND BEEF."
  • 1- and 2-pound trays of "LANCASTER BRAND 90/10 GROUND BEEF."
  • 1-pound trays of "WILD HARVEST NATURAL 85/15 ANGUS GROUND BEEF."
Shaw's
  • 1- and 2-pound trays of "SHAW'S FRESH GROUND BEEF 93/7."
  • 1-, 2- and 3-pound trays of "SHAW'S FRESH GROUND BEEF 80/20."
  • 1- and 3-pound trays of "SHAW'S FRESH GROUND BEEF 75/25."
  • 1.3-pound trays of "SHAW'S FRESH GROUND SIRLOIN BEEF PATTIES 90/10."
  • 1.3-pound trays of "SHAW'S FRESH GROUND ROUND BEEF PATTIES 85/15."
  • 1.3-pound trays of "SHAW'S FRESH GROUND BEEF PATTIES 80/20."
  • 3-pound trays of "SHAW'S FRESH GROUND BEEF PATTIES FAMILY PACK 80/20."
  • 1-pound trays of "SHAW'S ANGUS GROUND BEEF 85/15."
  • 1-, 2- and 3-pound trays of "SHAW'S FRESH GROUND ROUND BEEF 85/15."
  • 1-pound trays of "SHAW'S 90% NATURAL GROUND BEEF."
  • 1-pound trays of "SHAW'S 85% NATURAL GROUND BEEF."
  • 1-, 2- and 3-pound trays of "SHAW'S FRESH GROUND SIRLOIN 90/10."
  • 1-pound trays of "MEATLOAF & MEATBALL MIX."
BJ's
  • 5-pound trays of "FRESH GROUND BEEF, CONTAINS 15 % FAT" patties.
  • 3- and 5-pound trays of "LEAN GROUND BEEF, CONTAINS 7% FAT."
  • 2.5-pound trays of "MEATLOAF & MEATBALL MIX..
Ford Brothers
  • 3-pound trays of "FRESH GROUND BEEF, CONTAINS 20% FAT" patties.
Giant
  • 1-pound trays of "GIANT EXTRA LEAN GROUND BEEF 96/4."
  • 1-pound trays of "GIANT MEATLOAF & MEATBALL MIX."
  • 1-pound trays of "GIANT NATURE'S PROMISE GROUND BEEF."
  • 1-pound trays of "GIANT NATURE'S PROMISE GROUND BEEF PATTIES."
The packages carry the establishment number "EST. 492" inside the USDA mark of inspection or the nutrition label.
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