WASHINGTON -- In the second-largest meat recall in U.S. history, a Colorado company asked Americans nationwide Friday to check their refrigerators, stores and backyard grills and destroy 19 million pounds of hamburger meat because of E. coli concerns.
Seventeen people in Colorado already have gotten sick from beef provided by ConAgra Beef Co. of Greeley, Colo. At least six other cases of E. coli-caused illnesses have been reported in California, Michigan, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming, but none of those cases have been linked yet to the ConAgra beef.
Late last month, ConAgra recalled 354,200 pounds of fresh and frozen ground beef products because of E. coli concerns, and insisted only that batch had been linked definitely to the bacterium.
But ConAgra spokesman Jim Herlihy said Friday the company wanted to err on the side of caution.
"We want to be absolutely certain there's no opportunity that this product could be affected," Herlihy said. "We have no specific reason to believe it is, we're just taking extra precaution."
Herlihy said ConAgra could not say exactly what brand names the meat has been sold under. "Many of our customers are wholesalers who distribute to customers of their own," he said.
The Agriculture Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that 16 people have been diagnosed with E. coli from the tainted meat in Colorado. The Colorado Health Department said a 17th person also fell ill from ConAgra meat. Federal and state agencies reported Friday that more infections are showing up that may be linked to the contaminated meat.