E. Coli Meat Recall Expanded to 4.9 Million Pounds of Beef and Veal Products

A ground beef recall first issued by a California meat company last month, has been expanded to include five times more meat after federal investigators determined that approximately 4.9 million pounds of beef and veal products were produced in unsanitary conditions that could have caused E. coli contamination.

The expansion of the Huntington Meat Packing Inc. veal, beef products and ground beef recall was announced on February 12 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The original recall was announced on January 18 for 864,000 pounds of beef products after FSIS inspectors determined that some of the meat was contaminated with the E. coli O157:H7 bacterial strain.

A criminal investigation has been opened by the Office of Inspector General, with the assistance of FSIS, into Huntington Meat Packing’s practices after it was found that the company did not follow its own health and safety plans and failed to keep reliable records about its activities. Although no cases of food poisoning have been reported in connection with the recall, the FSIS says that all of the company’s meat should be considered suspect.

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E. coli O157:H7 is one of the more common causes of food poisoning in the United States. When left untreated, it can lead to dehydration and potentially life-threatening illness. While most healthy adults recover from food poisoning caused by E. coli within a few weeks, young children and the elderly could be at risk for more severe illness. If the toxin enters the blood stream, E. coli could also lead to kidney failure known as Hemolytic-Urenia Syndrome (HUS).

The original E. Coli O157:H7 recall included meat from both January and some from 2008 that the FSIS said may still be in storage. The expansion includes beef and veal products produced from January 22, 2009 through January 4, 2010. The recall includes ground beef, ground beef patties, burrito filling and veal patties. Beef products under both the Huntington and Imperial Beef Co. labels are affected by the recall. All of the recalled products have an establishment number of 17967 inside the USDA mark of inspection label.

Anyone with questions about the recall should contact the company at (888)894-8242.

The CDC reports that there are about 76 million cases of food-related illnesses reported every year, with more than 300,000 people hospitalized and 5,000 deaths. There were at least nine major recalls of beef products in 2009.

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