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ELIZABETH, N.J. -- Rocked by the devastating economic impact of what has become the second-biggest beef recall in U.S. history, Topps Meat Co., LLC said Friday it had no choice but to shut down its plant here and go out of business.
"This is tragic for all concerned," said Topps c.o.o. Anthony D'Urso in a statement. "In one week we have gone from the largest U.S. manufacturer of frozen hamburgers to a company that cannot overcome the economic reality of a recall this large.
"We sincerely regret the impact this will have on our employees, our customers and suppliers, and the community," D'Urso said. "Most of all, we regret that our products have been linked by public health agencies to recently reported illnesses. We hope and pray for the full recovery of those individuals."
D'Urso described the recall of 21.7 million pounds of possibly E. coli-contaminated ground beef products, which has resulted in several lawsuits, including a class action filed last week, as "a shocking and sobering experience for everyone."
The recall was the first in Topps' 67-year history, according to D'Urso.
A small number of Topps' 87 employees will stay on at the Elizabeth plant for an indefinite period to assist the USDA in its ongoing investigation and to deal with administrative matters, including ensuring the effectiveness of the recall.
In addition to the legal woes faced by Topps and at least some of the retailers that sold the company's products affected by the recall, including Wal-Mart and Pathmark, the USDA has come under fire for waiting 18 days to announce the recall. The department has said it will review its policy for handling recalls.
According to The New York Times, at least 30 people have become ill from E. coli contamination linked to Topps meat, and at least 10 of them have been hospitalized.