UPDATE: —USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)  made contact with Sysco Seattle Inc. late Saturday, turning what had been rare public health alert into a more routine recall.  It said: Sysco Seattle Inc. is recalling approximately 16,800 pounds of ground beef patties imported from Canada because they may have been contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

Sysco began contacting its customers about the problem on March 20 after learning about it from the Canadian company.  It distributed the recalled beef to restaurants in Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Washington.

FSIS admits it was out of loop for a while and the public health alert was issued “out of an abundance of caution.”

Earlier Food Safety News reported USDA had issued a rare public health alert Saturday over beef patties possibly laced with deadly E. coli O157:H7 because the FSIS could not find anyone at the food marketing and distribution giant Sysco Corporation to talk to about a recall.

Apparently that problem was solved.

The alert was for beef patties from Canada made by the same company that ceased operations in mid-February, went into receivership, and then was the subject of the discovery of possible E. coli O1457:H7 contamination that had led to numerous product recalls in Canada.

What happened to beef patties imported to Sysco Food Services in the American border town of Blaine, WA was for a time a mystery because FSIS was not able to find anyone at the company to talk to about it.

The Houston-based company, a Fortune 500 Company with $37.24 billion in revenue last year, is one of the largest food distributors in the U.S.   It employs about 47,000 people and has food warehouses throughout the country.

When the public health alert was issued, Food Safety News learned it was likely to be turned into a recall, and that has now occurred.

The recalled  beef patties were sent to the U.S. states from the same troubled plant responsible for numerous recalls in Canada comes more than a month after the problem began.  The FSIS said the ground beef involved might be contaminated with O157:H7, a strain of E. coli that can cause serious human illness and in some cases death.

The plant from which the contaminated beef originated has so far been linked to only illness. 

It is for beef produced by New Food Classics and imported to Sysco for distribution by food services.  The products now recalled in the U.S. include:

New Food Classics.jpg

-10 lb. boxes of PRIME RIB BEEF PATTIES 8 oz, with product code 55317, and production code 11 NO 22

-10 lb boxes of PRIME RIB BEEF PATTIES 71g, with product code 55391 and bearing a production code of 11 SE 01 or 12 JA 04

Earlier Saturday, FSIS said it was unable to make contact with Sysco Food Services to discuss a recall of this product, so it issued a public health alert to inform food service operations and consumers. 

Under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s system,  the New Food Classics plant was known as Establishment 761.   It ceased operations shortly before CFIA began investigating the facility on Feb. 15.

New Food Classics is based in Burlington, Ontario. The plant that produced the recalled products is located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

The troubled company has been subject to numerous product recalls in Canada.  This is the first time they’ve been linked to imports to the U.S.

CFIA updated recalls now include more than 135 products that are being removed from retail freezers because of fear they are contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

The beef products run from patties to steaks distributed throughout Canada restaurants and institutional establishments.  They were produced between July 1, 2011 and Feb. 15, 2012.

Some of the brand names included in the Canadian recalls include: Best Value, PC, Calgary Stampede, PC Blue Menu, Country Morning, Country Morning Gold, Exclusive Selections. Grill House Heritage Angus Beef,  Keg,Licks, Maple Lodge Farms, Simply Food, Western Family, and Weber’s.

While there has been only the one reported illness, Canadian health officials are warning people to beware of the symptoms of the potentially deadly O157 bacteria. They include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea–often bloody, vomiting, nausea, headache and little or no fever.

The infection usually begins three to four days after eating contaminated food and lasts for five to 10 days.