Ohio Death Linked to ConAgra's
Contaminated Meat

Center for Disease Control Investigators Suspect Death of
Ohio Man Attributed to Recalled E.Coli Contaminated Conagra Meat

Brad Turner & David Migoya
The Denver Post


An Ohio resident has died from an E. coli-related illness that federal
investigators say might have been caused by contaminated meat recalled
five weeks ago by a Greeley slaughterhouse.

It is the first death associated with meat ConAgra Beef Co. began recalling
June 30 and expanded to nearly 19 million pounds July 19.

The death was reported August 2 only on the website of the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the federal agency tracking the
outbreak. It is unclear when the death occurred. In a related development
Tuesday, Missouri health officials said four people in that state were sickened
by E. coli connected to the recall. That brings to 47 the number of people in
14 states affected by the tainted meat, according to officials in those states.
Twenty of the illnesses are in Colorado.

The recall began after the U.S. Department of Agriculture found ConAgra
meat was contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the most virulent strain of
the common bacteria.

CDC spokeswoman Katie Hoskins would only confirm that the death
occurred. Information on the CDC website said the death "might be
related to the Colorado cluster" of illnesses that state officials linked to
the recalled meat. Ohio Department of Health spokesman Jay Carey
said his agency is conducting additional tests. Carey said he did not
know the victim's age or gender, where the victim lived, or when the
death occurred.

State epidemiologist Dr. Forrest Smith said Tuesday he had no information
about the case. ConAgra spokesman Jim Herlihy said the company was also
seeking information about the death. "We've not heard any confirmation from
CDC that our product caused this death," Herlihy said.

The CDC is cautious in its assessments. Along with the 20 Colorado cases,
the center has counted 13 illnesses, other than the death, it says "might be
related" to the people in Colorado who got sick.

But state health officials, in interviews with The Denver Post, confirmed
that 12 of the 13 illnesses were linked to the Colorado cases. Colorado health
officials have said the illnesses in the state were caused by ConAgra's recalled
beef. The states' count of E. coli cases is higher than the CDC's because states
often don't tell the center about illnesses for several weeks.

Missouri and Ohio were not among the states to get meat covered by the initial
recall, federal records show. However, the two were among states that a
grocery chain said probably received meat from the second recall.

How the Ohio and Missouri victims contracted the bacteria is also unclear.
Many of the Colorado victims ate ground beef they purchased in Safeway
stores, which sold ConAgra product.

In Missouri, scientists matched the four illnesses there --- all involving women
--- to the national outbreak, said Nanci Gonder, spokeswoman for the state
health department. Test results are being forwarded to the CDC, she said.

ConAgra on June 30 recalled 354,200 pounds of ground beef it produced
on May 31. That happened after the USDA found E. coli in several samples
it took during a random inspection of a Denver meat processor. On July 19,
ConAgra expanded the recall to nearly 19 million pounds of beef --- the second-
largest in history --- after the USDA found the Greeley slaughterhouse made
ground beef from untested meat on the days the company removed other meat
it found had E.coli. That recall covers beef produced between April 12 and July
11. About 12,000 pounds have been returned from the original recall, ConAgra
officials said; it's unknown how much meat from the second recall has been returned.

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