UPDATE 2-Two U.S. deaths possible in beef recall

Mon Nov 2, 2009 12:40pm EST

Related Topics

* CDC says total of 28 cases, 16 hospitalizations

* All but three cases are in U.S. Northeast

* Illness connected to recall of Fairbank Farms beef (CDC describes scope of outbreak; paragraphs 1-3, 6, 9 new)

WASHINGTON, Nov 2 (Reuters) - An outbreak of food-borne illness, linked to dangerous bacteria in ground beef, sickened 28 people and caused at least one death, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday.

The CDC said a New York adult with underlying medical conditions had died and another possibly related death in New Hampshire was under investigation. State officials attribute the New Hampshire death to the O157:H7 E. coli bacteria.

All but three of the 28 cases listed by the CDC were in the U.S. Northeast and 18 were in the New England states. Sixteen hospitalizations were reported, said a CDC spokeswoman. The bacteria involved were from a common strain, so tests were under way to see if all of the reported cases were related.

Over the weekend, Fairbank Farms of Ashville, New York, recalled 545,699 lbs (248,450 kg) of ground beef products.

The Agriculture Department, which oversees meat safety, said an investigation led it to conclude "there is an association between the fresh ground beef products and illnesses in Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts." USDA worked with state and federal officials in examining a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses.

A potentially deadly bacteria, E. coli can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and, in severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, the elderly and people with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness.

A string of food-borne safety scares led the U.S. House of Representatives to pass legislation this summer to require more inspections and oversight of food manufacturers and would give the government new authority to order recalls.

Fairbank Farms announced the recall on Saturday. The beef was produced in mid-September and probably was labeled for sale before the end of the month, said USDA.

It went to retailers including Trader Joe's, Price Chopper, Lancaster and Wild Harvest, Shaw's, a unit of Supervalu (SVU.N), BJ's BJ.N, Ford Brothers and Giant, a unit of Ahold (AHLN.AS), in eight states -- Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

A complete list of products is available at:

link.reuters.com/vyx27f

The beef was produced Sept. 14 to 16, and the company urged consumers to check their freezers for products listed in the recall. Labels of the recalled packages will say EST 492 inside the USDA seal. (Reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by Walter Bagley)

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