Federal authorities assured consumers last month that a meat plant linked to nearly 50 illnesses caused by tainted ground beef had made enough changes after a recall to ensure that its products were safe. But, less than a month later, the same processor has recalled 1.2 million pounds of other beef products that might have sickened more than 30 people. The changes made after the first recall of meat processed by Nebraska Beef Ltd. affected only ground beef, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Nebraska Beef recalled 1.2 million pounds of primal cuts, subprimal cuts and boxed beef that were made on June 17th, June 24th and July 8th. The products have been linked to illnesses in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
As in the earlier recall, all the beef now being recalled was sold to retailers and other companies that planned to further process the meat. So product labels probably will not include the “EST 19336” code that identified Nebraska Beef. The Department of Agriculture isn’t sure whether, at the time of the first recall, the USDA investigation had spread beyond the area of the Omaha plant that produces ground beef, which has been linked to at least 49 cases of E. coli in seven states. But information compiled in the weeks after the June 30th recall showed another strain of the potentially deadly E. coli bacterium in other beef products.
Some of Nebraska Beef’s products were sold by Whole Foods Market, which also has announced a recall. Whole Foods is recalling fresh ground beef sold June 2nd to August 6th because of worries about E. coli contamination. Reports that seven people in Massachusetts and two people in Pennsylvania who shopped at Whole Foods became ill have been received. Even though on July 10th the USDA said they were satisfied that Nebraska Beef had made enough changes to ensure product safety, it appears there are still problems. The plant was to receive additional scrutiny in July, August and September to make sure the changes were made.
The company’s July recall covered all beef trimmings and other products intended for use in ground beef that were produced between May 16th and June 26th. Several lawsuits have already been filed against privately-held Nebraska Beef as a result of the earlier E. coli outbreak and recall. The company, which slaughters about 2,000 head of cattle a day, is located in Omaha, Nebraska.
Cooking ground beef to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees should kill E. coli bacteria, if they are present. The USDA recommends that people use a meat thermometer to verify they have cooked meat thoroughly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that the E. coli 0157:H7 variant sickens about 73,000 people and kills 61 each year in the United States. Most of those who die are the elderly or young children have weak immune systems. Symptoms of E. coli infection include stomach cramps and diarrhea that may turn bloody within one to three days.
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