MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The recall of ground beef sold at Cub Foods stores will probably soon expand beyond just the meat produced Nov. 2 and 3 at a meatpacking plant in Wisconsin, according to executives with the store and the meat packer.
They said the Minnesota Health Department's investigation has found that people appear to have been sickened after eating beef ground at the plant on days other than Nov. 2 and 3.
"We are concerned about the limited length of the recall ... and the question is 'Is it only two days that were contaminated or many more?"' said state epidemiologist Dr. Harry Hull.
American Foods Group Inc. of Green Bay, Wisconsin, announced Monday that it is recalling more than 1.1 million pounds of ground beef from Minnesota and 15 other states.
The move came two days after Cub officials said they believed American Foods had supplied the company with tainted beef.
American Foods Group Chief Executive Carl Kuehne said tests have not confirmed the meat was contaminated with the E. coli bacteria.
"Circumstantial evidence raises the possibility that recent serious illnesses may be related to our product," Kuehne said in a news release. "We have initiated this voluntary recall of all ground beef that could potentially be involved in order to eliminate any possible risk."
The decision to recall the meat was reached after consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the news release said.
The Minnesota Department of Health has linked 22 cases of E. coli to ground beef sold at eight Cub Foods stores in the state. The department said Monday that it had received hundreds of calls from consumers who believe they might have been infected with E. coli after eating ground beef from Cub.
"Some of them did have bloody diarrhea, but how many of those are actually E. coli," was hard to say, said Kirk Smith, a Health Department epidemiologist and one of the lead investigators of the outbreak.
The number of confirmed infections was expected to increase, Smith said.
Bloody diarrhea is one symptom of E. coli infection. Other symptoms include diarrhea and stomach cramps. The Health Department said people generally become ill two to four days after eating tainted beef.
Cub Foods announced Friday that it would recall all fresh ground beef sold since Nov. 1 from stores in the Twin Cities area, Monticello and Mankato, and from stores in Onalaska and Eau Claire, Wis., after 17 cases of E. coli infection had been linked to ground beef sold at Cub.
On Saturday, Cub parent company Supervalu expanded the recall to Cub stores in Chicago and Indianapolis, as well as some Supervalu and Supervalu-supplied stores in Minnesota, including County Markets, Kowalski's, Jerry's and Driskills.
Stores in Richland Center and Rice Lake, Wis., were also part of the recall.
The company said it would recall about 735,000 pounds of ground beef from 10 states: Minnesota, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Ohio and Indiana.
Another 98,000 pounds was being recalled from Iowa, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin; about 218,000 pounds from Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia; nearly 10,000 pounds from Tennessee; about 3,000 pounds from Michigan and Florida; and more than 38,000 pounds from Michigan, North Carolina and Florida, the company said.
American Foods beef tested last week as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's random testing program tested negative for E. coli, the company said.
On the Net:
Partnership for Food Safety Education: www.fightbac.org
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.