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Topps calls it quits after beef recall

Newark_Topps Meat Co. on Friday said it was closing its business, six days after it was forced to issue the second-largest beef recall in U.S. history and 67 years after it first opened it doors.

On Sept. 25 Topps began recalling frozen hamburger patties that may have been contaminated with the E. coli bacteria strain O157:H7. The recall eventually ballooned to 21.7 million pounds of ground beef.

Thirty people in eight states had E. coli infections matching the strain found in the Topps patties, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. None have died.

"This is tragic for all concerned," said Topps chief operating officer Anthony D'Urso, a member of the family that founded the company in 1940.

The Topps recall raised questions about whether the U.S. Agriculture Department should have acted quicker to encourage a recall. On Thursday, top USDA officials said they would speed warnings in the future.

Topps conceded that much of the recalled meat had already been eaten, and on Friday expressed regret that its product had been linked to illnesses. "We hope and pray for the full recovery of those individuals," D'Urso said in a statement.

The Elizabeth-based company had initially recalled 331,582 pounds of its frozen hamburgers on Sept. 25, acting only after the New York State Department of Health issued an alert linking Topps patties to illnesses.

Topps on Sept. 29 recalled 21.7 million pounds of its frozen hamburgers - a year's worth of production - after further evidence from the New York State Department of Health indicated a wider problem.

(Jeffrey Gold, AP Business Writer-© 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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