Elizabeth-based Topps Meat Co. is closing

(AP) - Topps Meat Co. on Friday said it was closingits business, six days after it was forced to issue thesecond-largest beef recall in U.S. history. On Sept. 25 Topps began recalling frozen hamburger patties thatmay have been contaminated after with the E. coli bacteria strainO157:H7. The recall eventually ballooned to 21.7 million pounds ofground beef. Thirty people in eight states had E. coli infections matchingthe strain found in the Topps patties, the Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention reported. None have died. "This is tragic for all concerned," said Topps chief operatingofficer Anthony D'Urso, a member of the family that founded thecompany in 1940. The Topps recall raised questions on whether the U.S.Agriculture Department should have acted quicker encourage arecall, and on Thursday, top USDA officials said they would speedwarnings in the future. Topps conceded that much of the recalled meat had already beeneaten, and on Friday expressed regret that its product had beenlinked to illnesses. "We hope and pray for the full recovery ofthose individuals," D'Urso said in a statement. The Elizabeth-based company had initially recalled 331,582pounds of its frozen hamburgers on Sept. 25, acting only after theNew York State Department of Health issued an alert linking itspatties to illnesses. Topps on Sept. 29 recalled 21.7 million pounds of its frozenhamburgers - a year's worth of production - after further evidencefrom the New York State Department of Health indicated a widerproblem.

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