The Topps Meat Company, on Friday announced that it was closing its entire operation effective immediately, due to the financial impact of the recall of 21.7 million pounds of ground beef.
Topps, the largest manufacturer of frozen hamburgers in the United States, announced the recall of the ground beef on September 25 and then expanded the recall on September 29, making it the second-largest beef recall in the country's history. The products might have been contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, a bacteria that can cause severe diarrhea and cramps, as well as other complications.
Production in the ground beef area of the company's plant in Elizabeth, New Jersey was shut down immediately after the recall was issued.
According to the Centers for Disease Control there have been 30 confirmed cases of E. coli with symptoms that match those that would be caused by the patterns of E. coli strains found in Topps' frozen ground beef patties.
The confirmed cases occurred in Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
No deaths have been reported though.
"This is tragic for all concerned," Anthony D'Urso, Topps chief operating officer, said in a written statement released on Friday.
"We sincerely regret the impact this will have on our employees, our customers and suppliers, and the community," the statement continued. "Most of all, we regret that our products have been linked by public health agencies to recently reported illnesses. We hope and pray for the full recovery of those individuals."
Since the recall was announced, lawsuits have been filed against the company.
On a conference call with reporters on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture responded to concerns that the agency knew for 18 days about the E. coli contamination before issuing a recall.
"I want to tell you, however, that the agency is not completely satisfied with the time that elapsed between our first notification of the confirmation and the issuance of the recall," said Dr. David Goldman, assistant administrator with the Office of Public Health Science.
"Since September 25, in addition to managing the recall, our scientists and Recall Committee members have been reviewing the data related to this recall as well as our own protocols to determine how we might improve the way we conduct these recalls in the future. We've determined in fact that there is room for improvement, and we intend to act on the findings of our review immediately."
This was the company's first recall in 67 years of business.