Topps Issues Hamburger Recall, Is Target with Wal-Mart in E. coli Suit

ELIZABETH, N.J. -- Topps Meat Co. here issued a voluntary recall this week of boxed frozen hamburgers after as many as 21 people in Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania became ill after eating ground beef possibly contaminated with E. coli.

The recall affects 331,582 pounds of frozen beef patties and 21 products that were distributed to grocery stores and foodservice institutions across the United States. The brands recalled were Butcher's Best, Kohler Foods, Sand Castle, and Topps.

Additionally, 15-year-old Samantha Safranek of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and her parents sued Wal-Mart on Sept. 26, claiming the girl fell ill from eating an E.coli-tainted Topps hamburger patty in August and suffered kidney failure and continuing complications.

Her attorney, Scott Schlesinger, also alleged that Topps and Wal-Mart took an unusually long time to respond. "We're not sure why it took both Topps and Wal-Mart so long to respond to this danger," he said. "They were both notified last month, once Samantha's lab test results were completed and once the E. coli diagnosis was made."

Schlesinger explained to Progressive Grocer that Topps was not named as a defendant in the suit because "Wal-Mart is strictly liable under the law for selling the Topps burgers."

When contacted by PG, Wal-Mart senior manager corporate communications Sharon Weber said, "We haven't been served with the suit and can't comment on something we haven't seen yet."

According to Topps, the products were produced on June 22, 2007, July 13, 2007, and July 23, 2007. The problem was discovered through sampling performed by the New York Department of Health as part of its coordinated investigation with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention into several reported illnesses in the state.

Consumers who find the recalled products in their freezer should remove the sell-by date and UPC code and send it to Topps for a full refund, the company said, adding that the product should be immediately destroyed.

Topps said it's cooperating fully with the USDA, and that the recall is the first in its 65-year history.
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