Lola Scott Russell, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says one of the deaths involved a New York adult with several underlying health conditions. The other is a death previously reported by New Hampshire officials.
She says all but three of the suspected E. coli infections are in the northeastern U.S. and 18 are in New England. The CDC is investigating all the cases.
Ashville, N.Y.-based Fairbank Farms recalled almost 546,000 pounds of fresh ground beef that may be tainted with E. coli bacteria. The meat was distributed in September to stores from Virginia to Maine.
The ground beef was sold at Trader Joe's, Price Chopper, Lancaster, Wild Harvest, Shaw's, BJ's, Ford Brothers and Giant stores. Each package carried the number "EST. 492" on the label. They were packaged Sept. 15-16 and may have been labeled with a sell-by date from Sept. 19 through Sept. 28.
Also, ground beef packaged under the Fairbank Farms name was distributed to stores in Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. That meat was likely repackaged for sale and would likely have differing package and sell-by dates.
The USDA was urging customers with concerns to contact the stores where they bought the meat.
Located in the southwestern corner of New York a few miles from the Pennsylvania line, Fairbank Farms has had two other voluntary recalls over the last two years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
In September 2007, the company recalled 884 pounds of ground beef products because they may have been contaminated with E. coli, the agency said. And in May 2008, it recalled 22,481 pounds of ground beef products that may have contained pieces of plastic.
Symptoms of E. coli include stomach cramps that may be severe and diarrhea that may turn bloody within one to three days. E. coli can sometimes lead to complications including kidney failure.
Symptoms usually show up three to four days after a person eats contaminated food, although in some cases it can be as long as eight days. Officials said anyone having symptoms should immediately contact a doctor.