Saturday, July 20, 2002

Hamburger recall expanded; illness cases reported

By Jesse J. Holland
The Associated Press

        WASHINGTON - A recall of contaminated hamburger linked to possible E. coli bacteria illnesses among 22 people is being expanded to 19 million pounds of meat sold nationwide, the Agriculture Department said Friday.

        “This action is being taken as a cautionary measure to ensure the protection of public health,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. “

        The beef recall by ConAgra Beef Co. of Greeley, Colo., expands a previous recall at the end of last month.

        The Agriculture Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 16 people have been diagnosed with E. Coli from the tainted meat in Colorado. Six other ill people in California, Michigan, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming might be linked to the ConAgra meat, the agencies said.

        The 19 million pounds of meat were produced between April 12 and July 11. Officials are still collecting details and expect to release later information that will allow consumers to identify products that should be returned to stores or discarded.

        “This has just begun,” said Elsa Murano, the undersecretary for food safety. She said no E. coli has been found at the plant since July 11.

        A spokesman for Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., the nation's biggest supermarket chain, did not return phone calls Friday. But his answering machine said the company is assessing its exposure.

        “We don't yet know the number of divisions or stores that may have received ground beef being recalled by ConAgra,” the spokesman, Gary Rhodes, said. “We're currently working with ConAgra to identify those divisions and stores so we can alert customers who still may have product in their freezers.”

        Consumers are advised to cook their ground beef to 160 degrees in the center to completely kill the pathogen.

        A list of recalled products is available online.


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