|Food Safety and Inspection
United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250-3700
News and Information
WASHINGTON, March 25, 1996--Monfort, Inc., a Greeley, Colo,. food processing firm, is voluntarily recalling about 5,500 pounds of ground beef produced at a Cactus, Texas, plant and distributed to stores in northwestern Indiana, because the product may be contaminated with Escherichia (E.) coli O157:H7 bacteria, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced today.
Monfort notified FSIS of the problem when it learned that one of its customers, conducting its own testing, found that ground beef produced on March 18 at the Cactus plant had tested positive for the O157:H7 strain of E. coli. The customer held up shipment of the lot until test results were available.
However, some of the Monfort ground beef produced on March 18 was shipped on March 21 to Judson Pack Inc., a North Judson, Ind., firm, which distributed the product to about 15 retail grocery stores within a 70-mile radius of North Judson. Any of the product that has been repackaged at a retail store cannot be identified. Consumers who are concerned about ground beef purchases they have made should ask the manager at the store where they bought the meat to find out whether the store bought any of the suspect Monfort ground beef from Judson.
"We urge purchasers of product intended for those in high risk groups to contact the place of purchase to determine whether they purchased any suspect product that needs to be returned," said Michael R. Taylor, USDA's acting under secretary for food safety and also administrator of USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration. The very young, the elderly, and persons with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness. E. coli O157:H7 bacteria have been implicated in a number of recent outbreaks of foodborne illness across the United States.
Many types of E. coli bacteria are naturally present in the intestinal tracts of some mammals, including cows. The strain of E. coli particularly harmful to humans, O157:H7, appears to be present in 0.2 percent of beef carcasses, according to a recent USDA survey.
E. coli O157:H7 bacteria are killed by high temperatures; therefore USDA has urged all consumers and food service personnel to cook ground beef thoroughly--to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit--and to avoid cross-contamination. Hamburgers should be cooked until brown in color and juices are no longer pink.
A safe handling label recently mandated by USDA for raw meat and poultry products states that some food products may contain bacteria that could cause illness if the product is mishandled or cooked improperly. The label further notes that raw meat and poultry should be refrigerated or frozen and thawed in a refrigerator or microwave, kept separate from other foods and working surfaces, cooked thoroughly, and refrigerated immediately or discarded. Hands and utensils should be washed after touching raw meat.
Consumers with questions about the recall may phone the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-800-535-4555. The Hotline can be reached from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. This number also provides access to a telecommunications device for the deaf and the hearing impaired.
For Further Information, Contact:
Consumers: Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-800-535-4555 (voice); 1-800-256-7072 (TTY)
Media: (202) 720-9113
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