Recall of contaminated beef expanded to 18 million pounds

Friday, July 19th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A recall of contaminated hamburger linked to E. coli bacteria illnesses among 19 people is being expanded to 18 million pounds and 21 states, the Agriculture Department said Friday.

The beef recall by ConAgra Beef Co. of Greeley, Colo., expands a previous recall at the end of last month. E. Coli bacteria associated with the beef has sickened at least 18 people in Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming, the agency said.

ConAgra is cooperating with the Agriculture Department, officials said.

Two weeks ago, the company recalled 354,200 pounds of ground beef and nearly a month after a positive E. coli test at a Denver packing house raised the first sign of trouble.

E. coli is a bacteria found in the intestinal tracts and feces of livestock.

If it contaminates meat, it can lead to digestive illnesses and potentially death in humans. Health officials have been urging consumers to cook their ground beef to 160 degrees in the center to completely kill the pathogen.

Agriculture officials said there have been at least 17 confirmed cases of illness in Colorado, one in Wyoming and one in South Dakota. No one is currently hospitalized, although some people have been admitted and released, they said.

Testing is under way in other states as public health officials tried to establish the scope of the outbreak.

The voluntary recall is of beef trim which is used to make ground beef, as well as fresh and frozen ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7, officials said.

The first ConAgra beef recall involved cases shipped to Colorado, Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, New Mexico, Kansas, Michigan, Texas, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, New York, California, Illinois, Iowa, Tennessee, New Jersey, Minnesota, Arizona and Idaho.

The Agriculture Department has not released a list of states involved in the updated recall.

Americans ate 69.5 pounds of beef per person in 2000, reflecting steady but modest increases since 1993, when consumption fell to 65.1 pounds, officials said.