CDC: Tainted ground beef may be linked to 2 deaths

Trader Joe's here had meat recalled



ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Contaminated fresh ground beef caused a possible E. coli outbreak that killed two people and sent 16 others to hospitals, federal health officials said yesterday.

Twenty-eight people may have become ill after eating beef produced by Fairbank Farms of Ashville, N.Y., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. All but three of the suspected infections are in the northeastern U.S. and 18 are in New England, said CDC spokeswoman Lola Scott Russell.

Fairbank Farms recalled almost 546,000 pounds of fresh ground beef that had been distributed in September to stores from North Carolina to Maine. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's recall notice, dated Saturday, said the possibly tainted meat had been sold in numerous ways, from meatloaf and meatball mix to hamburger patties.

One of the deaths was an adult from Albany County, N.Y., who had several underlying health conditions, according to the state Health Department. The other fatality was previously reported by New Hampshire, where health officials said a patient died of complications.

The CDC did not specify the states where people were hospitalized. Kidney failure is found in the most severe cases of E. coli. In less serious cases, the potentially deadly bacterium can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration.

Some of the ground beef was sold at Trader Joe's, Price Chopper, Lancaster, Wild Harvest, Shaw's, BJ's, Ford Brothers and Giant stores in packages that carried the number "EST. 492" on the label. Those products were packaged Sept. 15-16 and may have been labeled with a sell-by date from Sept. 19 through Sept. 28, meaning they're no longer being sold as fresh product in supermarkets, Fairbank Farms said.

The rest of the ground beef, packaged in wholesale-sized containers under the Fairbank Farms name, was distributed to stores in Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. That meat was likely repackaged for sale and would likely have differing package and sell-by dates.

A spokeswoman for Trader Joe's said the recall included ground beef items sold in that chain, although none of the Trader Joe's items tested positive for any foodborne illness. The recalled items had been distributed to stores in Pennsylvania, including the one in East Liberty, and other stores along the East Coast. They were not sold in stores in the Midwest or West.

Giant Eagle did not carry any of the affected items, and SuperValu, which supplies Shop 'n Save, Foodland and Save-A-Lot stores, also was not affected by the recall.

The USDA was urging customers with concerns to contact the stores where they bought the meat.

Ron Allen, Fairbank's CEO, urged consumers to check their freezers for the recalled ground beef.

Companies subject to such recalls are allowed to cook tainted meat to kill the bacteria and then use it in other products, a common practice in the food industry.

That won't happen in this case, the company said.

"At the end of the day, this product ... is going in the garbage," said company spokeswoman Agi Schafer.

Located in the southwestern corner of New York a few miles from the Pennsylvania line, Fairbank Farms has had two other voluntary recalls over the last two years, according to the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service.





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