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How to tell whether beef may be tainted

June 08, 2007|Jerry Hirsch | Times Staff Writer

United Food Group, a Vernon-based meatpacker, is expanding its June 3 recall of ground beef products that may be contaminated with a potentially deadly E. coli pathogen.

This week, the company said as much as 75,000 pounds of ground beef could be tainted. But after reports that as many as 15 people, including three in Southern California, might have become ill, United added 370,000 pounds of chubs, or tubes of fresh ground beef, to the recall.

Here is how to tell whether ground beef you have purchased might be tainted.

What brands of beef are being recalled?

The meat was sold under five brand names: Moran's All Natural, Miller Meat Co., Stater Bros. Markets, Inter-American Products and Basha's. It has "sell by" dates of April 29, April 30 or May 6; "freeze by" dates of April 28, April 30 or May 7; or manufacture dates of April 13 or April 20. All will have a marking that says "EST. 1241" on the package.

Where was it sold?

The products were sold by California retailers including Albertsons, Sam's Club, Smart & Final, Stater Bros. and Superior Warehouse. The affected products were also sold in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and Montana, according to state and federal health officials.

Whom should I call to make sure my meat is safe to eat?

Consumers with questions about the recall should contact United Food Group at (800) 325-4164. If you have meat listed in the recall, return it to the store where it was purchased.

What is wrong with the meat?

According to the California Department of Health Services, cases of illness linked to the beef have been reported in several states, including three people in California. No deaths have been reported.

Leftover ground beef found in the homes of two ill consumers in California and Colorado was tested in state laboratories and was found to contain E. coli O157:H7, a pathogen that has been responsible for multiple deaths and hundreds of illnesses in a series of outbreaks linked to contaminated beef, spinach and lettuce. The DNA fingerprint of the bacterium in United Food ground beef was analyzed, and it matched the fingerprint of the pathogen in 14 of the ill individuals.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration. Young children, seniors and people with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible.

How can I protect my family from E. coli?

All ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees. That will kill harmful bacteria and make the meat safe to eat. But the California Department of Health Services is recommending consumers not cook these lots of recalled meat in an attempt to make the beef safe. The best way to be sure other ground beef is properly cooked is to use an accurate food thermometer, the agency said.

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