Tainted Ground Beef Sickened at Least a Dozen in the West

VERNON, Calif. -- Ground beef contaminated with E. coli, produced by United Food Group LLC here, has reportedly sickened a dozen people in five states and Canada. State health authorities reported the sicknesses late Monday, a day after United Food Group recalled 75,000 pounds of the meat, which had been sold at a number of Western chains.

United Food Group voluntarily pulled the beef in the 11 states where it was shipped after samples taken by California and Colorado public health officials revealed the meat was tainted with E. coli O157:H7, the same type of bacteria linked to last year's spinach scare. The samples were taken during the course of an investigation into reported incidents of illness, according to the USDA.

None of the recalled product is currently on store shelves, United said. The beef was produced on April 20, and packages had a sell-by date of May 6 and a freeze-by date of May 7.

The Centers for Disease Control are leading an investigation into the matter, as CDC and California health officials try to trace the source of the E. coli.

The recall targeted 10-pound casings and 5-, 2- and 1-pound chubs of Moran's All-Natural fine ground beef and sirloin, Inter-American Products ground beef, and 3-pound chubs of ground beef from southern California grocer Stater Bros. Markets, all distributed by United Food Group. The products were at one time available at Albertson's, Grocery Outlet, Fry's, Save-A-Lot, Save-Mart, Smart and Final, Smith's, and Stater Bros., in 11 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and Montana.

According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, the illnesses cases that led to Sunday's recall were reported across the West between late April and early May, including four cases in Arizona, two in Colorado, and one each in Utah, Wyoming, and the Canadian province of Alberta. Department of Health Services spokeswoman Patti Roberts told the Sacramento Bee seven of the victims said they had eaten ground beef.
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