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Federal team begins hamburger plant probe

Beef patties

Inspectors search for source
of E. coli that led to recall

August 18, 1997
Web posted at: 1:13 p.m. EDT (1713 GMT)

COLUMBUS, Nebraska (CNN) -- A federal team began inspecting the Hudson Foods processing plant here Monday, trying to determine what caused an outbreak of E. coli bacteria that led to a massive recall of hamburger patties.

Tests at the plant will continue for 15 work shifts, said U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary Cathy Woteki.

A look inside a Hudson factory, where hamburger meat might have been contaminated. CNN's Eugenia Halsey reports:
video icon 230K/20 sec. QuickTime movie

The department last week announced the recall of 1.2 million pounds of ground-beef patties processed at Hudson's Columbus, Nebraska, facility on June 4, June 5 and June 9.

Sixteen people reportedly became ill from eating the patties.

Contamination from outside source?

Inspectors said they would look into the possibility that the contamination was brought into the hamburger processing facility from an outside source.

Inside the Hudson Food Inc. plant

"It more than likely may have come in on some raw ingredients," said USDA inspector Jesse Majkowski as he and two government inspection teams prepared to enter the plant on Monday. "More than likely that is where the contamination could have occurred."

However, Majkowski said if the plant was not following all sanitation procedures, that could have contributed to the spread of the E. coli contamination.

He said inspectors will be looking at the plants' processing procedures and tracing supplies to their source.

Majkowski said it probably would be at least two weeks before the inspection team completed its work and issued a report.

Hudson Foods has said it will cooperate fully with the inspectors.

"Our interest lies in learning the facts, determining the cause and in protecting the public," said James T. Hudson, chairman of Rogers, Arkansas-based Hudson Foods Inc.

Hudson said his company will do its own "full and aggressive" investigation to determine the source of the contamination.

He declined to identify the company's main sources for beef but said the Nebraska plant was not processing meat from sources outside the United States in early June.

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