On September 25, 2007, Topps Meat Company ordered a recall of over 21 million pounds of ground beef products. This is the third largest recall in U.S.D.A history. Reports of at least 28 cases of illness caused by suspected E. coli bacteria led to the recall. Ten persons are known to have been hospitalized in this outbreak.
Incredibly, according to an e-mail from an employee at the USDA, tests confirmed the presence of the E. coli bacteria strain O157:H7 in Topps Meat Company hamburgers on September 7th. This is the point where they knew for sure there was a problem. Yet they waited another 17 days to recall this meat.
The ground beef products being recalled have a “sell by date” or a “best if used by date” between September 25, 2007, and September 25, 2008. All these recalled Topps Meat Company products will have a U.S. Department of Agriculture establishment number of EST 9748. Topps Meat has asked that consumers who find the products at home cut off the UPC code and return it to Topps for a full refund, then dispose of the product immediately. In Topps’ defense, it is worth noting that they have seemed to handle this well, at least as of September 25, 2007. But there is still a great deal of investigating that needs to be done to determine who knew what and when.
E. coli bacteria is found in the intestines of both humans and animals. E. coli contamination can occur with negligent food preparation. Symptoms of E. coli exposure usually begin within a few days of exposure and can last for up to ten days. Symptoms include diarrhea with or without blood, severe stomach cramps, and fever. Some exposures to E. coli can lead to kidney failure and death.