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Company recalling beef after E. coli discovery

Graphic

Meat processed at Illinois plant

April 29, 1998
Web posted at: 11:12 p.m. EDT (0312 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- At the request of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the nation's largest beef processor is recalling more than 280,000 pounds of beef suspected of being tainted with a deadly strain of E. coli bacteria.

IBP Inc. will recall all the beef processed on April 14 at its plant in Joslin, Illinois, after routine USDA testing turned up one package of beef from the plant that was contaminated.

"In an abundance of caution, IBP is conducting this voluntary recall," the company said in a statement.

No illnesses linked to the beef have been reported, but the USDA notified health departments in all 50 states and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to watch for any emerging E. coli cases.

The beef was shipped to at least 20 states in the East, South and Midwest, and 215 cases in a military shipment to Europe were also being retrieved.

The meat being recalled was not sold directly to the public. Rather, it was packaged and distributed in large sausage-shaped configurations, known as "chubbs," to stores, institutions and other large-volume customers, said USDA spokeswoman Jacquee Knight.

"This is what a big store would buy to grind it up to make ground beef," she said. "It could have possibly been consumed, but if consumers are cooking it properly, there should be no problems."

Cooking hamburger to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit will kill E. coli.

IBP, based in Dakota City, Nebraska, said in a statement that 50 retail and food service customers had been contacted and asked to return meat. It did not identify those customers.

The USDA said the beef definitely had been shipped to customers in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The E. coli strain found in the IBP beef, called 0157:H7, is a virulent form of the bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea, kidney failure and death in small children, the elderly or others with weakened immune systems.

Last summer, the USDA initiated the recall of 25 million pounds of beef -- linked to the same E. coli strain -- that came out of a Hudson Foods Co. plant in Nebraska.

While the USDA legally can only recommend, and not order, a recall, it can back up its recommendations by withdrawing its inspectors from the plant in question, shutting it down. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman has asked Congress to give him the power to order recalls.

IBP's plant in Joslin is among those that have implemented a new meat inspection system intended to reduce E. coli and salmonella contamination through controls at certain spots along the production line. IBP said the company is reviewing all of its procedures in the wake of the recall.

"Our company and our industry continue to aggressively research ways to further enhance our food-safety efforts," the company's statement said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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