Yahoo! News Fri, Oct 04, 2002
Cargill Expands Beef Recall, Shuts Plant Amid E. Coli Fears
Cargill Inc., joining the list of meatpackers battered by food-safety
mistakes, sharply expanded its recall of ground beef potentially
tainted with E. coli bacteria ( news - web sites) to 2.8 million
pounds, Friday's Wall Street Journal reported.
The Agriculture Department, under pressure from Congress to crack
down on meat sanitation, also took the unusual step of indirectly
forcing the closely held commodity-processing company to temporarily
close the Milwaukee hamburger plant linked to 57 cases of food
poisoning in several Midwestern states.
The department suspended its inspection operations at the plant,
which is part of the Emmpak Foods Inc. business acquired by Cargill
in August 2001. By federal law, only federally inspected meat can
cross state lines.
Cargill spokesman Mark Klein said it isn't clear when the Milwaukee
plant, which employees 160 people, will reopen.
People familiar with the matter said the plant shutdown reflects
Agriculture Department officials' concern that they didn't get enough
information from Cargill when deciding the size of the initial recall
-- 416,000 pounds -- announced Sept 27. Agency officials also are
investigating whether Cargill was testing beef often enough for the
pathogen. Mr. Klein said Cargill officials acted properly.
The food-poisoning outbreak was caused by O157:H7, a virulent strain
of E. coli that causes bloody diarrhea and dehydration. Contamination
occurs when cattle manure, which harbors E. coli, is spilled onto
meat during slaughter.
Cargill, Minneapolis, owns the nation's second-biggest beef producer,
behind Tyson Foods Inc.
As with most ground-beef recalls lately, the warning does little to
limit the size of the outbreak. Most of the tainted meat probably has
been consumed. The Agriculture Department said the beef was produced
from Aug. 20 through Aug. 24.
It has been a difficult year for food safety. In July, an E. coli
outbreak forced ConAgra Foods Inc. to recall 19 million pounds of
ground beef produced by a Colorado meatpacking plant as far back as
April. The tardiness of the recall, the second-largest of its type in
U.S. history, so embarrassed the Agriculture Department that the
agency acknowledged that E. coli contamination was a bigger problem
than originally thought, and promised more pressure on meatpackers to
quash the pathogen.
Wall Street Journal Staff Reporter Scott Kilman contributed to this report.
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