Your Health

Contaminated Beef Recalled After Deaths

Time to check the freezer to make sure you don't have any hamburger meat that could be home to some nasty E. coli bacteria.

A vat of ground beef. i i

E. coli loves growing in vats of ground beef. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) hide caption

itoggle caption Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A vat of ground beef.

E. coli loves growing in vats of ground beef.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Fairbank Farms, a meat processor in New York, just recalled more than half a million pounds of ground beef that went to a bunch of grocery chains stores in the East, including Giant, Trader Joe's, BJ's and Price Chopper.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 26 people were sickened and two people died after E. coli infections that may have been caused by bad meat.

You can look for the establishment number "EST. 492" inside the USDA mark of inspection or on the nutrition label to identify the potentially tainted meat. The stuff was packaged on September 15 and 16, 2009, and may carry sell-by dates between September 19 and 28, 2009.

But some of the meat was sold in bulk and may have been repacked by stores, so check with your retailer to make sure. It's worth asking, if you're in doubt.

Early last month, the New York Times reported on the same dangerous type of E. coliO157:H7—involved in this recall. "Neither the system meant to make the meat safe, nor the meat itself, is what consumers have been led to believe," the Times wrote.

The root of the problem, the Times found, is that ground beef "is often an amalgam of various grades of meat from different parts of cows and even from different slaughterhouses" and is "particularly vulnerable to E. coli contamination."

Though it's no guarantee of safety, we prefer to grind our own hamburger meat with a food processor. For one thing, the stuff tastes better. Times food writer Mark Bittman offered a great primer on the technique in a column 2 1/2 years ago: "For the Love of a Good Burger."

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