"Late Thursday, we learned that there had been a positive test for the bacteria in Eastern Pennsylvania," said John H. Brown, president of HFX Corp., a meat processing plant located in Claysburg, PA. "As soon as we learned of the positive test, we immediately began recalling the affected products and are well on our way to seeing that all of it is removed from the consumer pipeline. For example, all beef being recalled has already been removed from our Hoss's Steak and Sea House restaurants."
HFX began aggressively recalling the beef products immediately after learning of the single positive test because, according to Brown, "the well being of our customers is our number one priority. Although the recall was voluntary, the USDA facilitated the recall's speed by sharing their expertise and working in close cooperation with us. We also worked closely and productively with the Pennsylvania Department of Health."
According to the Pennsylvania State Department of Health, five cases of E. coli 0157:H7 were diagnosed in York, Dauphin, Centre and Venango counties in late March. None of the patients are hospitalized and all have recovered.
"Because the number of cases is small and the exposure period was several weeks ago, the health department believes the risk to Hoss's customers is low," said an official Pennsylvania Department of Health press release issued late today. Although HFX is affiliated with the Hoss's restaurant chain, the facility also processes beef for a large variety of wholesale and restaurant customers.
In addition to the recall efforts, HFX is conducting a review of its food safety programs and has eliminated the use of three meat industry tenderizing processes: blade tenderization; vacuum marination and marinade injection. "Although these processes are widely used in the meat processing industry, we felt that they contain some level of risk, so we are discontinuing use of the processes," said Brown. "The health of our customers and consumer confidence in our products is too important to take any chances, even if the risk is small.