By Blake Morrison and Peter Eisler, USAToday.com
It has been suspended from the school lunch program three times, twice for repeatedly failing to produce ground beef that was free of salmonella, USA TODAY found.
For the second time this year, a Fresno beef company is recalling thousands of pounds of ground beef contaminated with a drug-resistant strain of salmonella.
Beef Packers Inc., owned by Cargill, announced the recall Friday. It covers 22,723 pounds of ground beef products that were sent to stores in Arizona and New Mexico.
WHY: Recall didn't include school lunches
SECOND INFECTION: Family's nightmare begins
The Arizona Department of Health Services has linked two illnesses to the ground beef, made at the Beef Packers plant on Sept. 23. The beef was "repackaged into consumer-size packages and sold under different retail brand names," according to a news release issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Safeway announced that the recall affects ground beef sold at its stores in Arizona and one outlet in Gallup, N.M. A Safeway spokesman said the recalled product is no longer in stores and urged customers to check all ground beef in their freezers and discard any with "sell by" dates of Sept. 28 through Oct. 11. Recalled products include fresh ground beef, beef patties, meat balls and stuffed peppers.
In August, Beef Packers recalled almost 826,000 pounds of ground beef contaminated with salmonella Newport, the same strain that prompted the current recall. At least 39 people were sickened in the weeks before the summer recall, which included orders produced at the plant in June.
Salmonella Newport infections can be life-threatening, especially to young children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, cramps and vomiting. Because this strain is resistant to antibiotics, the risk of hospitalization is increased.
A USA TODAY investigation published last week raised questions about whether orders the company made for the National School Lunch Program also should have been included in the summer recall. Although the orders made for schools tested negative for salmonella, food-safety experts and lawmakers say the beef produced for schools should have been rejected by the government. Instead, it was sent to schools.
Beef Packers has been a major supplier to the school lunch program. Since July, however, it has bid on no contracts and produced no ground beef for schools, Cargill spokesman Mark Klein says. It has been suspended from the school lunch program three times, twice for repeatedly failing to produce ground beef that was free of salmonella, USA TODAY found.