USDA links bad beef to state

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No in-state residents infected by contaminated meat

By Liv Osby • Health Writer • July 7, 2009

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At least 17 people around the country have been infected with a strain of E. coli linked to recalled beef that was sold in South Carolina and nationwide, federal health officials said Monday.

More than 41,000 pounds of the meat were originally recalled by JBS Swift Beef Co. on June 24 after contamination was found during an inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Another 380,000 pounds of beef from the same company was subsequently recalled as well.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that people in nine states — not South Carolina — had been sickened by a strain of E. coli that had the same DNA fingerprint as the recalled beef. While at least 12 people were hospitalized, no one has died.

The beef was distributed to retailers around the country, and USDA has posted on its Web site a listing of the stores where it may have been sold. The list includes BI-LO, Food Lion, Costco, Sam's Club and SAV-A-LOT stores.

But USDA cautions the list “may not include all retail locations that have received the recalled product or may include retail locations that did not actually receive the recalled product.”

Peggy Riek, spokeswoman for USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, said the agency is posting the information as it receives it from the company, but that consumers should check with their retailers to be sure if they sold any of the recalled meat.

The recalled beef was sold after April 21. And since some of the beef sold to retailers was probably cut again or made into ground beef and repackaged, consumers may not have all of the identifying information, CDC said. Most of the sicknesses involved eating ground beef.

CDC urges consumers to return any beef products produced by the firm and bought on or after April 21, and to fully cook meat to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

The beef may have been sold as sirloin top roast, sirloin tip steak, breakfast steak, beef tips, stew meat, stir fry beef, cube steak, ground beef, London broil roast, or top round steak, according to BI-LO's Web site.Consumers can return the meat to the store where it was purchased for an exchange or refund.

The USDA reports that the meat also was sold at Save-A-Lot stores at 7912 White Horse Road in Greenville and at 550 South Church Road in Spartanburg, among other South Carolina cities. Spokeswoman Maureen Shannon said customers can return the products for a full refund.

Costco and Food Lion are also providing affected customers with a refund. Sam's Club couldn't be reached for comment.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control is monitoring for cases of E. coli, spokeswoman Clair Boatwright said.

Symptoms of E. coli include cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody, and appear two to eight days after eating the tainted food, according to the CDC. Most people recover within a week, although the disease can lead to a type of kidney failure in some patients, typically young children, and can be fatal.

Seniors and those with weak immune systems, as well as small children, are most susceptible.

Patients sickened in the outbreak ranged in age from 2 to 74, though most were 19 or younger, according to CDC. Illnesses were reported in California, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Wisconsin.

Most of the beef packages are identified by the establishment number “Est. 969” and dates of “042109” or “042209,” though since much of the meat was processed, it was sold to consumers without those identifiers.

Consumers can call a company hotline — 800-555-7675 – with questions.



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