Thursday, March 13, 2003

Contaminated ground beef recalled



By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

If you bought ground beef from Kroger or Meijer stores in the last few days of January or the first few days of February, check your freezer.

Three Ohio children, including a 7-year-old boy in Butler County and a 3-year-old girl in Clermont County, were sickened several weeks ago by the exact same strain of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria, Ohio Department of Health officials announced Wednesday.

AVOIDING E. COLI
• Cook ground beef thoroughly; until juices run clear or a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees.
• Wash meat thermometers between tests
• After touching raw meat, wash hands before touching other foods or utensils and before eating.
• Keep raw meats and juices away from other foods, especially fruits or vegetables to be served raw.
• Don't eat hamburgers that are pink in the middle.
Source: Ohio Department of Health
Those illnesses have prompted a voluntary recall of nearly 106,000 pounds of ground beef that was processed by the Green Bay Dressed Beef plant in Sharonville, then distributed to stores in 10 states. The plant is part of the American Foods Group.

Much of the potentially tainted meat has probably been cooked and consumed. None of the beef from the affected lots remains on store shelves, officials said. However, some people may still have some of the beef in their freezers.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially fatal bacterium found in contaminated, undercooked beef. Illness can occur within nine to 12 hours after eating, according to the American Public Health Association.

The recall affects Kroger brand and Meijer brand beef with the USDA establishment number EST. 20983 and the code numbers 3024 or 3025.

For Meijer products, the code numbers can be found below the UPC bar code on the package. For Kroger products, the code numbers are below the store logo.

If you find these numbers, return the meat to the store where it was purchased.

"We sincerely regret this unfortunate incident and want to take all necessary steps to assure that any remaining product is returned for a full refund and not consumed," said Lee Torres, Sharonville plant manager.

The meat was produced on Jan. 24 and was sold between Jan. 25 and Feb. 3 in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

All three children got sick between Feb. 3 and 6. All survived, but one was hospitalized, said Jay Carey, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health.

People who ate the recalled beef weeks ago but didn't get sick have nothing further to worry about, Carey said.

For more information about the recall, call 1-(800)-829-2838.

E-mail tbonfield@enquirer.com





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