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Huge Ground Beef Recall Expands

Jul 22, 2002 | USA Today At the height of the backyard barbecue season, the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week announced a massive recall of beef because of possible contamination by the deadly bacteria E. coli 0157:H7.

Meat producer ConAgra of Greeley, Colo., agreed to the voluntary recall of nearly 19 million pounds of beef after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( news - web sites) linked it to 16 cases of food poisoning in Colorado. An additional six possible cases have been reported in California, Michigan, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.

The beef, distributed in 21 states, was produced between April 12 and July 11, and USDA officials say they have no way to know how much remains in the marketplace or in home freezers.

The move Friday expanded a recall of 354,200 pounds of fresh and frozen ground beef on June 30.

E. coli 0157:H7 is a bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea and vomiting. It is especially dangerous when consumed by young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. The bacteria can be killed when meat is cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

USDA Secretary Ann Veneman on Friday urged consumers who suspect they may have tainted beef in their homes to dispose of it or return it to the store where it was purchased.

Labels on packages subject to the recall have the code ''EST. 969'' inside the USDA inspection seal. Specific lot numbers and dates of recalled beef, along with food safety information, are posted on the Internet at www.usda.gov, or consumers can call 800-535-4555 for information.

Veneman stressed that the recall is a ''precautionary measure to ensure public health'' and said USDA inspectors are continuing to test beef in the plant. No meat has tested positive for the bacteria since July 11.

The beef recall is the second-largest in history, following the 1997 recall sparked by the E. coli 0157:H7 contamination of 25 million pounds of hamburger produced by the Hudson Beef Co.

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