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New York agriculture officials are warning consumers not to eat certain Topps Brand ground beef because it may be tainted with E. coli bacteria.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service later announced, Topps was voluntarily recalling approximately 331,582 pounds of frozen ground beef products.

The frozen ground beef patties are available in two sizes. One of the packages contains 20 quarter-pound burgers with a sell-by date of June 22, 2008. The second package contains 12 quarter-pound burgers with a sell-by date of July 23, 2007. The recalled products are labeled “Topps 100% Ground Beef Burgers.”

Consumers are advised to return any recalled beef to the store of purchase for a full refund. At this time officials are unsure how the beef became contaminated.

The recall was announced after several people in Albany and Rensselaer counties in New York became ill. At least three people have been hospitalized, according to officials.

The Food and Drug Administration is also investigating, since the strain of E. coli matches the one causing E. coli outbreaks in other states. The FDA is trying to identify the source.

On September 3, 2007 officials in Washington and Oregon recalled 41,000 pounds of ground beef after at least eight people were sickened by the E. coli bacteria. In May 2007, a Michigan meat packer recalled 129,000 pounds of beef because it was contaminated with the E. coli bacteria. In June a California meatpacker was forced to recall 75,000 pounds of tainted beef.

E. coli symptoms can include stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting and can be fatal for young children and the elderly.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Defective and Dangerous Products.

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