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E Coli Outbreak Forces Large-scale Recall of Beef Products

After pet foods and toys it is the turn of beef products to be recalled on a massive scale in the US, following fears of E coli outbreak. Four of the five reporting// symptoms of the disease have been hospitalized so far.

E. coli, or Escherichia coli, is a common and ordinarily harmless bacteria, but certain strains can cause abdominal cramps, fever, bloody diarrhea, kidney failure, blindness, paralysis and sometimes death.

E. coli is found in the feces of humans and livestock. Most, but not all, E. coli infections are associated with undercooked meat; an outbreak linked to fresh spinach last fall killed three people and sickened more than 200 others.

HFX Corp., a large meat processing facility based in Claysburg in Pennsylvania said it was voluntarily recalling 259,230 pounds of beef as a precaution. Besides supplying meat for the Hoss chain of restaurants, HFX also processes beef for other restaurants and wholesalers.

About 4,900 pounds of the beef being recalled was distributed to retail stores in Pennsylvania; the rest went to restaurants in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Health officials believe all the cases are linked to people who ate rare or medium-rare steak at different Hoss's Steak and Sea House restaurants in Centre, Dauphin, Venango and York counties from March 24 to March 29. None of the four hospitalized have developed kidney failure, they said.

"Because the number of cases is small and the exposure period was several weeks ago, the health department believes the risk to Hoss's customers is low," the Pennsylvania Department of Health said.

"As soon as we learned of the positive test, we immediately began recalling the affected products and are well on our way to seeing that all of it is removed from the consumer pipeline," HFX president John H. Brown said in a statement. "For example, all beef being recalled has already be en removed from our Hoss's Steak and Sea House restaurants."

HFX said it is reviewing its food safety programs and has stopped three specific meat tenderizing techniques, because though they "are widely used in the meat processing industry, we felt that they contain some level of risk," Brown said.

Health Secretary Dr. Calvin B. Johnson said Pennsylvania health officials were working with the state and federal agriculture departments to identify the source of the E. coli cases.

"We will continue to work with our partners to identify cases in Pennsylvania and, we hope, prevent any additional illnesses," Johnson said in a statement.

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