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Whole Foods Market late Friday afternoon issued a multi-state recall of fresh ground beef it had sold between June 2 and August 6, because of a concern that it might have been contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria.
What’s more, Whole Foods Market said the beef in question apparently came from Coleman Natural Beef, which had used a processing plant owned by Nebraska Beef Ltd. that was previously subject to a high-profile nationwide recall of ground beef for E. coli contamination.
“At the time of the previous recall, Whole Foods Market received assurances from Coleman Natural Beef that no product delivered to Whole Foods Market was linked to the recall,” the chain said on Friday. “Those assurances are now in question and Whole Foods Market is actively investigating the issue.”
According to a report by the Associated Press, Whole Foods had received reports that seven people in Massachusetts and two people in Pennsylvania who had shopped at Whole Foods Market became ill.
The recalled beef might have been sold at Whole Foods Market stores in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington D. C., Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Canada.
“While Coleman Natural Beef is a relatively small supplier for Whole Foods Market, we are extremely disappointed that we must now question Coleman’s assurances,” said Edmund Lamacchia, global vice president of procurement.
On Saturday, meanwhile, Nebraska Beef Ltd. launched its own recall of 1.2 million pounds of beef because the products might have been contaminated with E. coli bacteria. That recall came a month after the Omaha processor recalled 5.3 million pounds of meat linked to at least 49 cases of E. coli poisoning.
The recall followed warnings about the targeted beef from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Some of the seven people who developed infections in Massachusetts were linked to meat bought at the organic market, some after a national recall, according to a report in the Boston Globe.
The seventh E. coli case linked to ground beef was confirmed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Friday. Five of those infected were hospitalized and all had eaten ground beef from Whole Foods last month.
In a news release, Austin-Tex.-based Whole Foods said the latest recalls were spurred by investigations into confirmed cases of E. coli 0157:H7 contamination in Virginia, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.
“The investigations include supermarkets Dorothy Lane and Kroger, as well as beef suppliers and processors such as Coleman Natural Beef and Nebraska Beef, and are still ongoing as state and federal agencies work to determine the source of the outbreak,” Whole Foods said. [See related story on Kroger chains warning customers about the recall.]
“As a precaution, on Wednesday, August 6, 2008, Whole Foods Market voluntarily pulled shipments of beef from this vendor from its stores nationwide,” Whole Foods said.