Meat Distributor Blames E. Coli Contamination On Slaughterhouse

Sunday, April 22nd 2007, 7:38 pm
By: News On 6

MERCED, Calif. (AP) _ The company that distributed hamburger patties believed to have sickened at least three children with E. coli bacteria is blaming the contamination on the slaughterhouse that processed the meat.

Steve Wood, vice president for Merced-based Richwood Meat Co. Inc., said he does not know which slaughterhouse provided the meat. Richwood receives raw, boneless meat from suppliers and turns it into hamburger patties and other products.

The slaughterhouses that supply Richwood are required to provide lab tests certifying the meat is clean, but inspectors usually only test small samples of each batch and can miss a contaminated portion, Wood said.

``It's supposed to be clean, but they are picking out little samples here and there,'' he said. ``It's not 100 percent.''

Health officials in five states announced a recall Friday affecting 100,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties produced by Richwood last year. Wood said all of the recalled beef was turned into a variety of products on April 28, 2006.

The recalled products are hamburger patties and ground beef sold under the brands Fireriver, Chef's Pride, Ritz Food, Blackwood Farms, California Pacific Associates, C&C Distributing, Golbon and Richwood.

The affected states are California, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

The children all fell ill after eating hamburgers at the St. Helena and Calistoga Little League baseball snack shacks and have since recovered. Two other possible cases are being investigated.

Sample tests on the children and the meat will be completed Wednesday, said Mike Bowman, spokesman for the California Department of Health Services.

E. coli infection causes abdominal cramps and diarrhea. It typically resolves itself in five to 10 days, but complications can arise in young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.