E. coli beef recall expands nationwide

(CNN) – An enormous beef recall has expanded nationwide. 1.8 million pounds of ground beef is being removed from shelves.

That’s because it could be contaminated with potentially deadly E. coli bacteria, and some of it may be in your fridge. Food inspectors are naming the stores that may have received the tainted meat, but they’re not naming restaurants that could have sold the beef.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released a list of stores in nine states that may have received shipments of the beef contaminated with E. coli, a bacteria that produces a toxin that causes terrible abdominal pain, kidney damage and, in some cases, even death. None of the 11 people sickened by this latest outbreak died, officials say.

Investigators traced the bad meat back to Wolverine Packing Company in Detroit. 10 out of the 11 people who got sick ate at a restaurant supplied by Wolverine. Federal officials are not naming the restaurants, and this consumer watchdog thinks that’s gotta change.

Tony Corbo, of the group Food and Water Watch, told CNN “This is going to make things a little more dicey in terms of consumers who may get sick and don’t know what to do or are not following this issue closely enough to make the connection between their illness and where they ate.”

But a top ranking USDA official said it’s against regulations to disclose restaurant names.

“People who were exposed, have already been exposed. So it doesn’t help the public to tell them now that a certain restaurant was associated with these illnesses. Our job really is to identify a product that might still be available.” said the Office of Public Health Science’s assistant administrator, David Goldman.

Goldman said federal officials disclose the names of grocery stores and other retailers because customers could still have meat they bought sitting in their freezers. Restaurants, on the other hand, aren’t going to serve tainted burgers once the meat is recalled.

For its part, the meat packing plant said in a statement it’s working with the USDA.

“We encourage anyone who has a concern to be sure to cook all ground beef to a minimum temperature of 160 degrees fahrenheit.”

And while that might be tough advice to swallow for the grillmasters out there who love their burgers medium rare, it’s the only way you can be sure it’s safe to eat.

Officials note that it can take up to 10 days for someone to become sick from E. coli. Symptoms include vomiting, abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea.

The USDA says consumers should check the codes on packages of ground beef in their refrigerators and freezers. Recalled meat will be labeled “EST 2574b,” with a production date between March 31, 2014 and April 18, 2014.

Any meat so labeled should be returned to the store where it was purchased.

For more information, visit the USDA here.

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