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Raw grinding halted at N.J. plant tied to E. coli

/ Source: The Associated Press

Federal inspectors said Friday that they suspended the grinding of raw products at the Topps Meat Co. after finding inadequate safety measures at the plant, which is being investigated because of bacteria-tainted hamburgers that may have sickened 25 people.

U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Amanda Eamich said the suspension follows a safety assessment at the Elizabeth-based company, which this week voluntarily recalled nearly 332,000 pounds (150,594 kilos) of frozen ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli.

"The notice of suspension was issued based on the Sept. 25 recall, reports of human illness and the food safety assessment findings regarding inadequate raw ground process controls," she said.

Eamich declined to detail the inadequate controls.

She said Topps faces no fines or other penalties, but must submit a corrective plan that will need federal approval before it can resume grinding raw products.

Topps spokeswoman Cortney McMahon had no immediate comment.

Eamich said health officials are investigating 25 cases of E. coli in eight states. She said three people are confirmed as having ate Topps burgers, with investigations into the other 22 cases continuing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said illnesses were reported in Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

E. coli causes intestinal illness that generally clears up within a week for adults but can be deadly for the very young, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Symptoms can include severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and, in extreme cases, kidney failure.

A full list of the recalled products is available at