E. Coli Fears Spur Expanded Beef Recalls

Hamburgers on a gas grill AP

Just as barbecue season is heating up, consumers in 21 states have been warned to watch what they put on the grill, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone. Beef from two major processors may be contaminated with dangerous E. coli bacteria.

"It's really concerning, especially with kids and everything," a shopper told Blackstone. "It's summertime, barbecues are going on, so it's kind of a scare."

One supplier greatly expanded its ground beef recall this weekend, which now includes about 5.7 million pounds of fresh and frozen meat that may be contaminated with E. coli. The meat has been blamed for making more than a dozen people sick. All have recovered.

David Goldman, acting administrator of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, announced on Saturday that this recall would be expanded to include products with sell-by dates from April 6 through April 20. The beef, sold in 11 Western states, was distributed by California-based United Food Group LLC.

In an unrelated case, Tyson Fresh Meats announced it is recalling more than 40,000 pounds of ground beef, distributed in 12 states across the South and Southwest. Samples at a Texas packing plant showed signs of E. coli contamination; however, no illnesses have been reported.

The recalled products were sent to Wal-Mart stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas, Tyson said.

Wal-Mart has removed the products from its meat cases and is destroying the recalled ground beef still in its possession, officials said.

The Tyson ground beef was sold in prepackaged trays with a sell-by date of June 13 that were placed directly into the meat case.

Goldman said none of the latest batch of suspect United beef is in stores now because the product would be well past its expiration date, but consumers may still have some of the meat at home.

"It is important for consumers to look in their freezers," Goldman said.

The meat has been blamed for an E. coli outbreak in the Western states that resulted in 14 illnesses, spanning April 25 through May 18. All the patients have recovered.

On Wednesday, United Food Group expanded an initial recall of 75,000 pounds of ground beef, adding another 370,000 pounds based on "unspecified concerns" raised by the California State Department of Health Services. This meat had sell-by dates from April 29 through May 6.

The recalled products were shipped to stores in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. They were sold under the brand names Moran's All Natural, Miller Meat Company, Stater Bros., Trader Joe's Butcher Shop, Inter-American Products Inc. and Basha's.

The affected grocery stores included Albertson's, Basha's, Grocery Outlet, Fry's, "R" Ranch Markets, Save-A-Lot, Save-Mart, Scolari's Wholesale Markets, Smart and Final, Smith's, Stater Bros. and Superior Warehouse.

E. coli is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause stomach cramps and diarrhea that may turn bloody. E. coli can sometimes lead to complications, including kidney failure.

Customers with questions about its recall can call United Food Group's hot line at 1-800-325-4164. Those with recalled products should either throw the product away or return it to the point of purchase for a refund.

  • Lindsay Goldwert

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