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Ground Beef Recall in New England Due to E. Coli Contamination

Sep 6, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP

A recall of ground beef patties distributed in New England was announced by meat processor Fairbanks Farms today.   The patties, which were sold at Shaw’s Supermarkets in six states, could be contaminated with E. coli.   This recall comes just a week after Interstate Meats of Oregon recalled tons of E. coli-tainted ground beef after it made several people sick in the Pacific Northwest.

The ground beef patties were sold under the Shaw’s label and would have been purchased by consumers between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. on September 5th.  The patties came in 1.33-pound trays that are marked with the code “Est. 492” inside the USDA mark of inspections and the date code “243”.  The nutritional label has a time stamp between “17:05” and “17:25”.  

Fairbanks Farms said the patties were recalled because of concerns that they were tainted with E. coli bacteria.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), E. coli infects about 73,000 people in the US every year, and kills 61. The disease is marked by severe cramping and diarrhea that often turns bloody. The symptoms of E. coli poisoning last from four to eight days, but the disease is very dangerous for children, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems.  E. coli can cause kidney failure, and patients can spend weeks undergoing dialysis.

Fairbanks Farms said that it was able to isolate most of the E. coli-tainted beef at its warehouse, but that some of it was shipped to Shaw’s Supermarkets in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  Shaw’s has pulled the ground beef patties from stores, and consumer’s who purchased the product can return it to the supermarket for a refund.  

Last week, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a recall for more than 41,000 lbs of ground beef that has been linked to an outbreak of E. coli poisoning. Nine people, including one child, became sick with E. coli O157:H7 after eating ground beef distributed by Oregon-based Interstate Meats under the “Northwest Finest” brand in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

E. coli contamination has been responsible for several other food recalls in that past year. In June, United Food Group recalled 5 million pounds of meat. That recall was followed by another that involved 40,000 lbs of E. coli-tainted beef products produced by Tyson Fresh Meat, Inc. And in 2006, fresh bagged spinach was recalled after it was linked to a nationwide E. coli outbreak that sickened 200 people, killing three.

E. coli bacteria can be killed if meat is cooked to an internal temperature of 160-degrees. The internal temperature of meat can only be gauged with a food thermometer, and color is not an indication of a food’s internal temperature. Keeping raw meat away from other foods and using proper hand washing practices can also prevent E. coli poisoning.

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