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E. coli outbreak spurs beef recall

State warns about tainted Topps brand hamburger; Price Chopper Supermarkets pull frozen items

By RICHARD RICHTMYER, Associated Press

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

ALBANY -- State agriculture officials are warning consumers not to eat certain Topps brand hamburgers because they might be contaminated with E. coli.

The agency discovered the contamination after people in Albany and Rensselaer counties got sick with a potentially deadly strain of E. coli. Officials tested the Topps hamburgers remaining in the victims' home freezers and found the same strain of the bacteria in the leftover meat as was found in one of the Albany County residents who got sick.

"It's the same strain that matches a multistate outbreak," Health Department spokeswoman Claudia Hutton said.

Price Chopper Supermarkets had already removed all Topps brand meat products from its shelves before the state Department of Agriculture issued its warning Tuesday afternoon. Price Chopper executives decided to remove the products as soon as they got preliminary test results from the state, said company spokeswoman Maureen Murphy. The Rotterdam-based company has 116 store in the Northeast.

The Agriculture Department's warning covers Topps frozen 1/4-pound hamburgers in packages of 20, marked to be sold by June 22, 2008, and 1/4-pound hamburgers in packages of 12 marked to be sold by July 23, 2008.

They were distributed to grocery stores throughout New York state, according to the Agriculture Department. Six cases have been identified, in Albany, Monroe, Herkimer and Washington counties. Three people were hospitalized. All are getting better, according to the state Health Department.

Federal officials are trying to track down the source of the beef.

Hutton said cooking beef until it is no longer pink -- at an internal temperature of 160 -- will kill the bacteria. "Nowadays we believe it's good advice to cook all beef thoroughly."

The burgers were distributed by the Topps Meat Company, based in Elizabeth, N.J.

E. coli causes intestinal illness that generally clears up within a week for adults but can be deadly for the very young, elderly people and those with compromised immune systems. Symptoms include stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea that may turn bloody within one to three days, and in extreme cases kidney failure.

Consumers who bought any of the Topps hamburgers in question are being asked to return them to the store.

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