Beef Packers Recalls Beef Products Over Possible E. Coli Contamination

Fresno, California’s Beef Packers, Inc., is recalling approximately 1,560 pounds of beef cheek products over concerns that the meat may be contaminated with <"">E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (UDSA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.  The problem was discovered during company microbiological testing and the recall is identified as a Class I Recall, which means that this is a health hazard situation wherein there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.

The beef cheek products were shipped to distributors in Fresno, Modesto, Santa Rosa and Vernon, California and involve the following product:  30-pound boxes of “CARGILL MEAT SOLUTIONS CORPORATION, BEEF CHEEK MEAT – SM BX. ”These boxes of beef cheek meat products bear the establishment number “EST. 354” and a “PACKED ON” date of “07/02/08,” ink-jet printed on the label, however, the product was intended for further processing or for packaging as raw beef cheek meat and will likely not bear the establishment number “EST. 354” on products available for direct consumer purchase.

Although the FSIS has received no reports of illnesses associated with consumption of Beef Packers products to date, anyone with signs or symptoms of food borne illness should consult a medical professional.  Also, consumers with questions about the recall should contact the company’s Consumer Line at 1-800-545-1679. Media with questions should contact company Director of Communications Mark Klein at (952) 742-6211.

Escherichia coli is a relatively common bacteria found in the human digestive tract and is normally harmless; however, some strains, including those linked to food poisoning, such as E coli O157:H7, are serious and can cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, deadly septicemia, and death.  In the US, E. coli is the leading cause of food-borne illness.  About 73,000 people are infected and 61 people die from E. coli each year and, last year alone, over 22 million pounds of beef and vegetables were recalled due to E. coli outbreaks.  Currently, there is a multi-state E coli outbreak that has been linked to Nebraska Beef supplied to Kroger Grocery, among others.

In the last two years, a variety of food pathogens have killed several people, sickened thousands, and touched nearly every state in the country as well as Canada.  The problem is difficult to police because the food-surveillance system is outdated, under-funded, and overwhelmed by the emergence of mega-farms, -distribution centers, and -transporters.  Scientists have expressed concern that infections from antibiotic resistant E. coli bacteria are spreading into the greater population and several countries also now report cases of antibiotic-resistant E. coli.  Researchers compare the E. coli threat to the worldwide problem of community-acquired MRSA—methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus—an antibiotic-resistant staph developing resistance to the last drug of choice.  And, now, emerging data confirms the negative health effects of E. coli can remain for months and years; can have long-term, lasting effects; and can appear months or years after the original illness.

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