Nebraska firm recalls beef due to E. coli: USDA

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Agriculture Department on Friday said Omaha meat packing company Nebraska Beef Ltd is recalling 1.2 million pounds of beef because it may be contaminated with a particularly dangerous strain of E. coli.

The recall is of beef prepared for shipment to retailers but not yet cut up in supermarket sized portions.

The recall is “Class 1,” meaning there is a “reasonable probability” that eating the beef “will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death,” the USDA said. It is the most dangerous level of the three classes of recall.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said the beef was sent to processing establishments and retail stores across the United States and had been produced June 17, June 24 and July 8.

The recall is of primal and subprimal cuts that are larger sections of cows, such as chuck and rib, that can be cut down for individual or family-sized packaging. It also is of “boxed beef” or carcasses that have been partially disassembled for shipping.

Shipping containers and some product labels will bear Nebraska Beef’s identifying the establishment number, “EST. 19336,” but that number will likely not show up on meat that consumers buy, the USDA said.

The problem was discovered through a joint investigation with state health departments, Centers for Disease Control and the USDA. To date 31 cases of the contamination in 12 states and Canada have been identified in the investigation, the USDA said.

E. coli O157:H7 can cause diarrhea and dehydration. Children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems are the most susceptible.

Last month, Nebraska Beef recalled 5.3 million pounds of material used in making ground beef after 40 illnesses were reported in connection with its ground beef.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert, editing by Vicki Allen