Originally created 11/15/02

E. coli leads to recall of beef



An Augusta meat-packing plant agreed Thursday night to recall 54,000 pounds of ground beef that might be contaminated with E. coli bacteria, according to federal health officials.

The beef was produced Nov. 5 at Shapiro Packing Co. - also known as Shapiro Farmer's Market - and distributed to stores in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.

"We did have a positive on E. coli," said Andrea McNally, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service in Washington.

E. coli is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration. The very young, seniors and people with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible to food-borne illness. The USDA has received no reports of illness associated with the meat.

A committee in Washington determined Thursday that Shapiro would initiate a voluntary recall of meat that could be infected.

"Because of the potential hazard of illness from consumption of meat products contaminated with harmful bacteria such as E. coli 0157:H7, I urge consumers who have purchased the suspect meat not to eat it and to return it to the place of purchase," said USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service Administrator Garry McKee.

The suspect meat, packed in varying weights, includes ground round and ground chuck with sell-by dates of Nov. 15, Angus patties and chuck patties with sell-by dates of Nov. 17, ground beef round patties with sell-by dates of Nov. 15, 80/20 chuck patties and lean ground beef patties with sell-by dates of Nov. 17, sirloin ground beef with sell-by dates of Nov. 15, and black Angus lean ground beef with sell-by dates of Nov. 17.

Each tray bears "EST.332A" inside the USDA seal of inspection.

Other recalled products include 5-pound packages of ground chuck with Nov. 23 sell-by dates; 5-pound packages of 100 percent PURE ground beef with Nov. 23 sell-by dates; and 10-pound chubs, packed eight to a box, bearing the codes 800045, 800046 or 800047.

Anyone with questions about the recall can contact the company's general manager, Randal Garrett, at (706) 722-2694, according to a USDA news release.

Shapiro was listed as the country's 14th largest beef packer in a 1999 survey conducted by Cattle Buyers Weekly, a business publication for the beef industry. It estimated the plant's capacity as 1,200 head of cattle per day, with annual processing totaling about 250,000 head.

SHAPIRO PACKING CO.

PARENT COMPANY: Keystone Foods LLC, West Conshohocken, Pa.

EMPLOYEES: 400

HISTORY: Shapiro Packing was founded in 1932. The family-owned company was acquired in 1996 by Keystone, one of the world's largest suppliers of packaged foods and hamburger patties. Keystone, founded in the early 1960s, rode the nation's fast-food craze to become a $2.6 billion company by 2000.

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119, or rpavey@augustachronicle.com.