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E coli recall

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E. coli concerns prompt recall of 19 million pounds of hamburger
Sat Jul 20,11:58 AM ET
By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The possible presence of toxic E. coli bacteria ( news - web sites) is prompting the recall of 19 million pounds (8.55 million kilograms) of hamburger, the second largest beef recall on record.

The expanded recall was announced Friday after at least 16 people in Colorado were sickened by hamburger processed by ConAgra Beef Co. of Greeley, Colorado, which serves chain and independent grocery stores, food service operators and restaurants.

The number of E. coli reports was continuing to rise. At least six other cases of illness have been reported in California, Michigan, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming, but none have been linked yet to the ConAgra beef.

"This action is being taken as a cautionary measure to ensure the protection of public health," Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said. The move broadens a recall ordered at the end of June.

E. coli bacteria are naturally present in the intestinal tracts of all warm-blooded animals, including humans.

Most of the hundreds of strains are innocuous, but E. coli O157:H7, which is not naturally present in humans but does occur in the intestinal tracts and feces of livestock, produces a toxin in people that can cause bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps and in some cases death.

ConAgra's recall is of beef trim used to make ground beef, as well as fresh and frozen ground beef products that may be contaminated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( news - web sites) recommends all ground beef be cooked on high heat to kill the pathogen.

Company officials and the Agriculture Department warned consumers to be on the lookout for the affected meat, which could have been sold under several brand names. The suspect meat was produced between April 12 and July 11, officials said.

ConAgra recalled 354,000 pounds (159,300 kilograms) of fresh and frozen ground beef products at the end of June because of E. coli concerns, and said only that batch has been definitely linked to the bacteria.

The largest meat recall in history was in 1997, when Hudson Foods recalled 25 million pounds (11.25 million kilograms) of ground beef after 15 people in Colorado fell ill from E. coli after eating hamburger from its Columbus, Nebraska, plant.

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