OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – A review of Nebraska Beef Ltd.’s records prompted Thursday’s recall expansion because USDA investigators determined the company’s practices couldn’t effectively control E. coli bacteria on June 24.

1.36 million pounds of beef is now included in the recall that began Aug. 8 after the company’s meat was linked to an E. coli outbreak.

The initial announcement recalled 1.2 million pounds of beef that were made on June 17, June 24 and July 8.

Nebraska Beef’s intact meat products have been linked to 27 illnesses in Canada, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman said investigators decided that 160,000 pounds of meat should be added to the recall after examining records for the Omaha plant.

Most of the meat produced that day was included in the Aug. 8 recall announcement, but the company initially omitted some meat produced after it switched to a different product.

Reiser said the company did not thoroughly clean its equipment between products on June 24, so there was no way to ensure the meat produced later in the day was safe.

Reiser said that Nebraska Beef is still producing beef while the recall progresses. And USDA officials continue to investigate as part of an effort to determine the extent of the problems at the plant.

Nebraska Beef’s spokesman did not immediately respond to a phone message left Thursday morning.

The large cuts of beef covered by this latest recall – primal cuts, subprimal cuts and boxed beef – are typically used for steaks and roasts, but at least some of those cuts from Nebraska Beef were used for ground beef.

Last month, Nebraska Beef recalled 5.3 million pounds of meat and federal officials said they were satisfied the company was operating safely.

The meat involved in that first recall has been linked to at least 49 cases of E. coli, but that was a different strain of E. coli 0157:H7 than the one tied to the current recall.

The company’s July recall covered all beef trimmings and other products intended for use in ground beef that were produced between May 16 and June 26.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said in a July statement that it concluded Nebraska Beef’s production practices were insufficient to effectively control E. coli bacteria between May 16 and June 26.

Reiser said those July comments about the plants failure to control E. coli referred specifically to Nebraska Beef’s ground beef production, not its production of intact cuts of meat.

Most of the recalled meat was sold to companies that planned to further process the meat, so it may be difficult for consumers to determine whether they have any of the recalled meat without checking with their retailers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said last week’s recall notice should have said some of the meat was shipped in containers with Nebraska Beef’s establishment number “EST. 19336” and the company name. Reiser said those packages of meat were included in the 1.2 million pounds Nebraska Beef recalled from its customers even though the agency omitted them from its news release.

Privately held Nebraska Beef already faced several lawsuits related to the earlier E. coli outbreak and recall. The company slaughters about 2,000 head of cattle a day and employs about 800 people in Omaha.

The USDA said in its release Thursday that it wanted to be sure consumers understand that this recall covers only products made by the company Nebraska Beef Ltd. and not all beef produced in the state of Nebraska.

Cooking ground beef to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees should kill E. coli bacteria, if they are present. The USDA recommends that people use meat thermometers to verify they have cooked meat thoroughly.

The CDC estimates that the E. coli 0157:H7 variant sickens about 73,000 people and kills 61 each year in the United States. Most of those who die have weak immune systems, such as the elderly or very young.

Symptoms of E. coli infection include stomach cramps and diarrhea that may turn bloody within one to three days.



On the Net:

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: http://www.fsis.usda.gov

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://cdc.gov/ecoli

AP-ES-08-14-08 1551EDT


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