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Largest meat recall in U.S. not affecting Portage eateries

From staff and wire reports Published: August 23, 1997 12:00 AM

However, managers at Portage area Burger Kings said Friday night their restaurants were not affected by the recall and that they were serving beef as usual.

"I heard that some restaurants were not able to serve, but our meat is not contaminated," said Jeff Hill, manager on duty at Burger King on East Main Street in Kent.

Managers in Streetsboro and Ravenna echoed similar messages.

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"We have never gotten meat from them (Hudson Foods Inc., the source of the recalled meat)," said Mike Reardon, the manager on duty at the Streetsboro franchise on S.R. 14.

Burger King, the nation's second-largest fast-food chain behind McDonald's, came up beef short after it cleared its stores of patties supplied by Hudson Foods Inc., the source of burgers blamed in an E. coli outbreak that sickened fewer than two dozen people in Colorado in early June.

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Miami-based Burger King said 1,650 of its restaurants in 28 states were affected by the expanded recall Thursday of 25 million pounds of hamburger processed at a Hudson Foods plant in Columbus, Neb., but 950 of the restaurants got new beef supplies by Friday. Other Burger Kings in the chain didn't use Hudson as a supplier.

"Absolutely, customers are concerned," said Paul Clayton, North American president of Burger King Corp. "Obviously, our sales are probably not what we'd want them to be."

Spokesmen for rival chains McDonald's and Wendy's said it was too soon to tell whether their business had increased or whether people were avoiding hamburgers altogether because of Thursday's expanded recall.

Hudson also supplied ground beef for some Boston Markets restaurants and frozen beef patties sold at Safeway, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. All have removed the meat from their shelves.

At first, 20,000 pounds of beef were recalled Tuesday, but it was expanded when the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited problems with records for tracing meat production.

Hudson Foods agreed to recall all the beef that had been processed at the plant and to shut down the plant until stronger safety recommendations were met. There was no indication when the plant might reopen.

"We are confident that the plant is ready to open as soon as the USDA is ready to come in and take a look at it," said Hudson spokesman Robert Udowitz.

He said it was too early to estimate how much the recall and the plant shutdown will cost the company. The USDA said the contamination didn't occur at the plant but at one of Hudson's suppliers. It wasn't known which one sent Hudson the tainted beef.

People with Hudson hamburgers in their freezer were urged to return them to the place where they purchased them, said USDA spokeswoman Jacque Knight said. All of the meat will then be returned to Hudson, which will decide whether to burn it or render it into pet food, she said.

Clayton said Burger King pulled the meat as a precaution. It maintains a separate production line at the plant and its own testing showed no contamination. In addition, the chain's flame-broiled cooking system guarantees beef is cooked at least to the 155-degree temperature that kills E. coli bacteria, he said.

"No tainted beef made its way to Burger King," Clayton said.

Meanwhile, Burger Kings doing without hamburgers extended their breakfast menus into the lunch hour, urging customers to check out the pork patties and other beefless offerings.

Bacon, lettuce and tomato and ham-and-cheese sandwiches were added to menus.

Burger Kings that carried Hudson beef are in Alabama, Arkansas,

Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana,

Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada,

New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee,

Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming.

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