WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service is continuing to investigate illness-causing E. coli-tainted ground beef traced to Rochester Meats Inc., Rochester, Minn.
According to Beth Gaston, a spokesperson for the USDA, the testing was begun after several people from Maine complained of illness.
"We have found a link between that meat and six illnesses," said Gaston. "There is an investigation into the outbreaks, so that number may change as the investigation goes forward."
Rochester Meats voluntary recalled more than 170,000 pounds of ground beef products after FSIS confirmed the contamination, she said.
According to FSIS's report, the agency found positive traces of E. coli O157:H7 in samples collected on March 19, 1999, and March 24, 1999. The strain found in patient isolates from Maine matched those detected in the samples.
The report indicates that the recalled products, which were all produced on December 1, 1998, bear the establishment number 8999.
The recalled products included frozen 100% pure ground beef, 100% pure ground beef patties, 100% pure ground chuck patties, chopped beefsteak, beef patties, meat for chili, beef patty mix and pure beef bulk.
All of the products were sold to wholesale and institutional customers in 10-, 15- and 20-pound packages and chubs.