By P.J. Huffstutter and Ana Mano
CHICAGO/SAO PAULO (Reuters) – A U.S. unit of Brazil’s JBS SA is recalling 6.5 million pounds of beef products processed through an Arizona plant because the meat might be contaminated with salmonella, U.S. government officials said on Thursday.
U.S. investigators have identified at least 57 people in 16 states who have become ill due to consuming contaminated ground beef products made from meat traced back to JBS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.
JBS shares fell as much as 5 percent to around 8.80 reais on the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange.
JBS Tolleson Inc, part of JBS USA, the U.S. arm of the world’s largest meatpacking company, was voluntarily pulling ground beef and other raw beef products that had been shipped to stores across the country, the USDA said.
Salmonella can cause fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain, and can be fatal to young children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
Hundreds of beef products are part of the recall, including products sold under the Walmart brand. The products were packaged from July 26 to Sept. 7.
“We are working in close partnership with USDA to make sure all potentially impacted product is removed from stores and homes,” JBS said in a statement.
This is the second time JBS USA has recalled beef products this year.
In May, the company recalled almost 35,500 pounds of raw ground beef processed through its Lenoir, North Carolina, plant after a consumer found bits of blue hard plastic in the meat, which JBS had produced for grocery chain Kroger Co, according to the USDA.
It is also the second major meat recall in recent weeks by a top U.S. beef processor. In September, Cargill Inc’s meat division recalled about 132,606 pounds of ground beef shipped in the United States due to possible Escherichia coli (E. coli) O26 contamination.
Federal and state investigators found that Cargill’s ground beef products were the probable source of the death of one person and 17 people who fell ill due to raw ground beef, according to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
The parents of a young Tennessee girl are suing Cargill Meat Solutions, alleging their daughter was hospitalized and developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) after eating the contaminated ground beef purchased from a Publix supermarket, according to a lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court in Minnesota.
HUS, which can lead to kidney failure, can be fatal.
“Cargill and our employees are distressed that someone may have become sick from ground beef we produced,” the company said in an email statement. “While we can’t discuss the specifics of the lawsuit, we understand the person continues to recover and her health is everyone’s top priority right now.”
(Reporting by Ana Mano in Sao Paolo and P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago; editing by Christian Plumb, Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis)