SANTA MONICA Calif. Ground beef sold at Southern California Fatburger restaurants in May is now being recalled for possible E. coli contamination, although chain officials said that the meat was found to be safe prior to shipment and that it has received no complaints of illness.
The restaurant chain’s beef is part of a larger recall for possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination that covers 3,516 pounds of ground beef. No illnesses have been reported.
Officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service recently announced the recall of products from Sterling Pacific Meat Co. that was sold to Arizona and California restaurants under the Cattleman’s Choice and Fatburger labels. The Washington agency said that the possible contamination by potentially deadly E. coli O157:H7 was detected during an inspection of records held by City of Commerce, Calif.-based Sterling Pacific Meat Co.
Officials of Santa Monica-based Fatburger Corp. said in a written statement that while initial testing on May 18 by its meat supplier did indicate the possible presence of E. coli in the batch slated for the chain’s distributor, the batch was held from shipment for additional testing. A second test on May 19 using a different technique “produced a conclusive negative (contamination free) result,” they said, and “the beef was released to [distributor] Superior Anhausner Foods and was shipped to the Fatburger Southern California market.”
Because Fatburger uses only fresh ground beef for its burgers, the 1,500 pounds of meat in question was consumed within a week and months before the recall was initiated, said Andrew Wiederhorn, chief executive of Fatburger Corp. and its parent, Fog Cutter Capital Group of Portland, Ore.
“The Company did not receive any contamination type complaints or reported food illnesses during this [May] time period, nor during the following 30 days after the depletion of this batch of beef,” Fatburger Corp. officials said in the statement recently posted at the chain’s website. “The beef currently available in the Fatburger system has been tested and is free of contamination.”
Calls to Sterling Pacific Meat Co. were not returned by press time.
Officials of the Food Safety and Inspection Service said the meat in question was produced on May 18, in 10-pound and 20-pound packages under the Fatburger label and in 12-pound and 11.8-pound packages under the Cattleman’s Choice label. It was distributed at the wholesale level to food service companies, who further distributed the product to restaurants in California and Arizona, they noted.
Packaging for the meat being recalled also bears the establishment number “Est. 550” within the USDA Mark of Inspection and advise “Keep Refrigerated” and/or “Keep Frozen.”
Information released late last week incorrectly associated Sterling products under the “Stock Yards Brands” with the recall according to a clarification issued by Washington-based officials.
E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly pathogen that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors and persons with weakened immune systems are the most susceptible to serious complications.