Recalled Beef May Be Linked to 2 Deaths

By Ben Dobbin, Associated Press Writer

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — Two deaths and 26 other illnesses may be linked to fresh ground beef that has been recalled because it might be contaminated with E. coli bacteria, a federal health official said Monday.

One of the deaths involved a New York adult with several underlying health conditions, said Lola Scott Russell, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The other is a death previously reported by New Hampshire, where state health officials said a patient died due to complications.

Russell said all but three of the suspected infections are in the northeastern U.S. and 18 are in New England.

Ashville, N.Y.-based Fairbank Farms recalled almost 546,000 pounds of fresh ground beef that had been distributed in September to stores from North Carolina to Maine. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's recall notice, dated Saturday, said that the possibly tainted meat had been sold in numerous ways, from meatloaf and meatball mix to hamburger patties.

Some of the ground beef was sold at Trader Joe's, Price Chopper, Lancaster, Wild Harvest, Shaw's, BJ's, Ford Brothers and Giant stores in packages that carried the number "EST. 492" on the label. Those products were packaged Sept. 15-16 and may have been labeled with a sell-by date from Sept. 19 through Sept. 28, meaning they're no longer being sold as fresh product in supermarkets, Fairbank Farms said.

The rest of the ground beef, packaged in wholesale-sized containers under the Fairbank Farms name, was distributed to stores in Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. That meat was likely repackaged for sale and would likely have differing package and sell-by dates.

The USDA was urging customers with concerns to contact the stores where they bought the meat.

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