Beltex recalls beef products over E. coli risk

A Fort Worth meatpacker has voluntarily recalled 135,000 pounds of various beef products because of a risk of E. coli contamination, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed Thursday.

It was the second such recall in two years for Beltex, formerly a processor of horse meat, which now markets beef and exotic game under the Frontier Meats brand.

In the latest case, Beltex shipped beef trimmings and cuts to wholesalers and meat processors in Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Washington and Wisconsin. They were produced Oct. 28, Nov. 20, Feb. 19 and April 2, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service said.

None was sold directly to the public, said Adrian Gianforti, a spokeswoman for the inspection service, adding that her agency was in the process of determining where the beef was shipped. The USDA called it a high-risk recall.

A news release by the agency said the problem came to light during a routine food-safety assessment, when Beltex's method of analyzing E. coli O157:H7 "raised concerns about the safety of the product."

Beltex said in a brief e-mail that the recall was precautionary and no one has fallen ill from the shipments cited.

"No products involved in the recall have been confirmed to be positive for E. coli 0157:H7 contamination," Beltex said in the e-mail. "Frontier Meats is dedicated to satisfying our customers' needs without putting the public at risk. We continuously strive to improve our manufacturing and production processes in order to provide the highest quality products to our consumers."

The statement did not clarify who bought the recalled meat and how it was used. Gianforti said names of wholesale purchasers are proprietary.

Recalled products included kidney fat or suet, beef trimmings and "boneless navel," apparently a brisket cut.

In 2008, Beltex recalled cattle heads intended for human consumption because of a risk they might contain infected tissue that could cause mad cow disease, the USDA said. The recall was categorized as low-risk.

BARRY SHLACHTER, 817-390-7718