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A customer chooses meat at a meat market in Beijing May 31, 2013. With more money in their pockets, millions of Chinese are seeking a richer diet and switching to beef, driving imports to record levels and sending local meat firms abroad to scout for potential acquisition targets among beef farmers and processors. Picture taken May 31, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: FOOD BUSINESS) - RTX10D4M
Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Bad meat?
FOODBORNE SCARE

A huge ground beef recall was issued in the US after one person died and 17 fell ill from E. coli

By Chase Purdy

The world’s third-largest meat company this week ordered nearly 133,000 pounds (60,327 kg) of its beef product be pulled from the US market after discovering an E. coli contamination was linked to the death of at least one person.

This is at least the second time this summer that Cargill has recalled beef products because of E. coli fears. In August, the company ordered 25,000 pounds (11,300 kg) be removed.

In this latest case, the company in mid-August told the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) about a possible contamination. A subsequent epidemiological investigation found that, in addition to the one death, at least 17 people had likely fallen ill because of the beef. The USDA said in a statement that the meat in question was produced and packed on June 21 and affects 12 different lines of Cargill products (pdf).

Cargill has not yet responded to a request for comment. It remains unclear whether the company knows which or how many of its meatpacking facilities might be contaminated, or if production has shut down at any of its operations to ensure no other contaminated products will reach the market. Meanwhile, the USDA remains on alert for new illnesses connected to Cargill meat that’s already been purchased by people.

“Some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers,” the agency said in a statement. “Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.”

In general, the number of food recalls associated with foodborne illnesses have gone up across the last decade. Though that sounds bad, it’s actually a good thing, because it indicates the government has gotten better at catching and tracing these problems before they spread and wreak more havoc.