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Massive Beef Recall Ordered

More than 200 tons of ground beef carrying a strain of the deadly E.coli bacteria was recalled Friday from the world's largest meat packing company, which distributes throughout the United States and Canada.

IBP Inc. voluntarily recalled the meat produced in May at its packing plants in Illinois and Alberta, from wholesalers, distributors and retailers in 25 states and at least in five Canadian provinces.

Since the product has an 18-day shelf life, it was unlikely much of the product remained in the marketplace. But IBP asked its customers to return any still in storage.

But the Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based company and government inspection agencies on both sides of the border stressed no illnesses associated with the meat had been reported, and urged the public not to panic.

What Is E. coli?
E. coli or Escherichia coli is a bacteria found in the digestive tracts of most humans and many animals, and often is harmless or even beneficial.

But harmful strains of the bacteria affect 73,000 and kill 61 Americans every year.

Different strains of E. coli have various effects. Some people get only mildly ill. Others get bloody diarrhea, and some suffer kidney failure and hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can be fatal.

You can get E. coli from eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef; drinking raw milk; swimming in or drinking contaminated water; or having contact with feces.

Infection can be avoided by thoroughly cooking ground beef, avoiding unpasteurized milk, and washing hands carefully.

For more information, check out E.coli information from CBS HealthWatch or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

(Source: CDC, CBS HealthWatch)size>

IBP said the product posed no danger to consumers as long as the beef was properly handled and cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

The USDA categorized the action as a Class 1 recall because of the "reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death."

In Canada, the company is recalling abou170,000 pounds of the ground beef produced at its Lakeside Packers unit in Brooks, Alberta.

The contamination in Canada was discovered by the Costco Wholesale Corp. chain, which received less than 20,000 pounds of the beef at 30 of its stores in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec, and alerted the public.

"We're just part of the IBP recall. We're taking care of our members the way we think we should," Wilson said from the company's head office in Seattle, Washington.

Jean Kamanzi, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's chief of food-borne pathogens, said: "The product was tested and it was found positive for E. coli so we recalled it due to caution."

The E.coli found in the ground beef is the same strain that contaminated the water supply in the farming community of Walkerton, Ontario last month, killing seven people and leaving 2,000 others sickened with various symptoms such as bloody diarrhea.

Escherichia coli 0157:H7 is a deadly form of a common bacteria found in the intestines of humans and animals. It attacks the lining of the intestines before damaging the kidneys, possibly leading to kidney failure and death.

In the United States, wholesalers, distributors and a small number of retailers that received the affected ground beef, were located in the following states: Kansas, Texas, Minnesota, Maine, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Arkansas, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Maryland, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Ohio, Illinois and Mississippi.

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