Topps Meat Files For Bankruptcy Protection

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Topps Meat Co., which issued the nation's second-largest beef recall ever, has filed for bankruptcy protection.

Elizabeth, N.J.-based Topps said it would liquidate the company, which was one of the largest makers of frozen hamburgers before potentially fatal bacteria were found in its patties, compelling it to halt production and issue the recall.

Topps announced Oct. 5 that it was closing its business, six days after it was forced to issue the recall of more than 21.7 million pounds of frozen hamburger patties, which were one year's worth of production.

The bankruptcy petition was filed Wednesday.

Topps listed about 5,400 creditors in its Chapter 7 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Newark, but gave no amounts that each were owed. Nearly all appeared to be individuals who sought refunds for boxes of frozen hamburgers. The creditors included at least one of the families who have sued Topps when members became ill after eating hamburgers.

Topps recalled the meat after some was found contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, a potentially fatal bacteria. To date, 40 people in eight states have been sickened after eating Topps beef, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The recall prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to announce changes in how it would inspect meat plants. After being criticized for foot-dragging, the USDA also said it would move faster to encourage recalls. The agency cannot issue recalls.

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