Washington — An unknown portion of the 21.7 million pounds of possibly E. coli-contaminated frozen hamburger patties recalled by Topps Meat could still be in consumers' freezers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted last week, and getting news of the recall out to consumers is critical to preventing more illnesses.
Last week, the recall — second in size only to a 1997 recall of 25 million pounds of beef by Hudson Foods — had been reported as the cause of 27 illnesses, although only three of these had been officially linked to the recalled product by the USDA.
Officials from both Topps and USDA agreed that most of the affected product has already been either consumed, returned or thrown away, according to published reports. However, since the products are sold and stored frozen, shoppers who are unaware of the recall could be keeping the burgers in their homes for weeks or possibly months before consuming them.
In a year of news involving contaminated food imports, as well as two major produce recalls in September, the Topps recall has intensified calls for reform in the nation's food inspection processes. In an investigation following Topps' initial recall of more than 330,000 pounds of beef, the USDA found the company had carried over meat from one day's production to the next, violating a major rule.