ELIZABETH N.J. Topps Meat Co. has gone out of business, effective Friday, after issuing the nation’s second-largest beef recall because of fears the meat may have been contaminated with a potentially lethal strain of E. coli.
Elizabeth-based Topps began recalling frozen hamburger patties Sept. 25 and expanded it a few days later to 21.7 million pounds of ground beef.
"This is tragic for all concerned, " Anthony D’Urso, chief operating officer of Topps, said 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. 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. "
Beef from Topps has been linked to 30 reported cases in eight states of the E. coli O157:H7 bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. At least 15 people have been hospitalized, the CDC said.
The recalled products, including frozen hamburger patties, were manufactured over the past year and bear a "sell by" or "best used by" date of Sept. 25, 2007, through next Sept. 25 and the U.S. Department of Agriculture designation EST 9748.
Topps, which was founded in 1940, said a few of its 87 employees would remain on the job for an indefinite time to assist in the recall and the USDA’s investigation.