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Beef E Coli Infections Lead to Expanded Recall

After at least 18 cases of e. coli infections reported in multiple states were associated with assorted beef products distributed by JBS Swift Beef Company, a recall issued last week was expanded to include a total of about 421,000 pounds of meat.

The beef recall was first issued for about 41,000 pounds of meat on June 24, but an additional 380,000 pounds of assorted beef were recalled on June 28, 2009, after investigations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) prompted the manufacturer to re-examine the effectiveness of their food safety system.

Various beef products produced by JBS Swift Beef Company on April 21, 2009, such as intact cuts of beef like primals, sub-primals, or boxed beef, could be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria. Some of the products may have been further processed into ground beef by other companies, which could increase the risk of an E. coli infection.

The E. coli O157:H7 bacteria can cause serious food poisoning symptoms like bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps. While most people typically recover in about a week, more severe cases can lead to hospitalization or a form of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Children under the age of five, the elderly and those with a weak immune system are the most likely to suffer from more severe E coli infections.

The recalled beef was shipped in boxes that bear the establishment number “EST. 969” inside the USDA mark of inspection, with an identifying package date of “042109” or “042209” and a time stamp of “0618” to “1130.” However, if the contaminated beef was reprocessed into ground beef or another form of meat, consumers may have no way of checking the establishment number to see if their beef is recalled.

The recalled products include bottom sirloin, intact cuts of beef, boxed beef used for steaks and roasts and a wide variety of other beef products. A full list of items affected by the beef recall is available on the FSIS website.

The FSIS and CDC have not yet determined how the beef became contaminated. JBS-Swift Beef Co. is contacting retailers to determine whether more information can be obtained on how the beef was processed and sent out to customers.

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