WASHINGTON (FNS) -- One of the nation's leading meat packers has voluntarily recalled 5,500 pounds of coarse ground beef from a lot that tested positive for E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria.
The meat, processed in Texas by Greeley, Colo.-based Monfort, made its way to 15 independently owned grocery stores in Indiana and Michigan.
The beef was part of a larger 140,280-pound lot produced March 18, 85,000 pounds of which were sent to a retailer that detected the E. coli after conducting its own tests. That retailer, whom neither Monfort nor the U.S. Department of Agriculture would identify, notified the meat packer and withheld shipment of the beef to its stores. Monfort then issued the voluntary recall.
Regarding the balance of the lot of coarse ground meat, 44,000 pounds went to a food processor for cooking, and 5,780 pounds were later determined to have been processed by Monfort March 19, and were not contaminated.
All but 10 pounds of the ground beef sent to retailers were recovered, and the remaining meat was traced to a shopper who had cooked the beef in chili. None of the people who ate the chili became ill, and the customer returned the uneaten portion of the product, according to a spokesman for the Indiana State Department of Health.
The E. coli bacteria is killed when meat is thoroughly cooked.
The only portion of the 140,280 pounds that reached further down retail channels was the 5,500 pounds that made it to the stores in Indiana and Michigan.
A spokeswoman for Monfort said the E. coli contamination was "an isolated incident." She said the company has a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point inspection program in place to detect contamination.
"We have a state-of-the-art food safety program and we do everything we can to minimize contamination. It is rare and it does show up once in a while," the spokeswoman said.
The USDA took the incident as a positive sign that retailers are taking an active role in the inspection process. "That is a very responsible thing and we're happy about it," said a USDA spokesman about the retailer who discovered the bacteria in this instance. "More and more retailers are testing." The issue of retailers testing for E. coli in ground beef has been controversial since the USDA began random testing of ground beef in supermarkets more than a year ago. The supermarket industry protested the testing, saying that it didn't follow science-based HACCP principles and that negative publicity from a positive testing would damage their businesses.