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Where’s the tainted beef in S.C.?

Consumers might not learn what South Carolina stores sold ground beef possibly contaminated with E. coli until after the grill-happy July Fourth weekend.JBS Swift Beef Co. of Colorado, which told consumers last week it shipped potentially tainted beef to South Carolina, has expanded its recall nine-fold after the discovery of 18 illnesses tied to the meat when it’s ground.No illnesses connected to the recalled beef have been reported in South Carolina, state health officials said Monday.Most large Midlands grocers said they did not have the beef. Bi-Lo said Monday it received a “small amount” of the possibly tainted meat but would not say where it was sold. And Food Lion said at least one store along the S.C. coast received the recalled beef.Neither JBS nor the U.S. Department of Agriculture had released a list of stores selling the possibly contaminated beef as of Monday. The recall was first announced Wednesday.The Department of Agriculture said it generally takes three to 10 business days to publish a list of stores. JBS sells beef mainly to processors and distributors who later sell it to stores. Because of the time needed to track the beef, an Agriculture Department spokeswoman said a list is expected closer to 10 business days after the recall.That means the public will not know what stores got the potentially tainted beef until after the July Fourth weekend.A JBS official said last week that processors and stores did not want their names released and would “contact the public as they see fit.” Efforts to reach the company Monday were unsuccessful.A food industry watchdog said he understands that federal and corporate officials want to be careful about naming grocers that might be customers of processors that got tainted beef but never sold the meat in their stores.But Chris Waldrop of the Consumer Federation of America’s Food Policy Institute said he also wouldn’t blame grillers who might shy away from ground beef this Fourth — until they have more information.“You’re going to have to do a little bit of legwork,” Waldrop said. “Ask the retailer if they are part of the recall, and if they say they don’t know, then go someplace else.”Most of the Midlands’ major grocers — Piggly Wiggly, Publix, Wal-Mart and Kroger — said Monday they were not involved in the beef recall.Food Lion said the distribution center that shipped the recalled beef to one store serves locations mostly in the Myrtle Beach area. The grocer wants customers there who bought choice inside round — steak or beef shoulder — and 80-20 ground beef from May 1 to June 6 to return the meat for a refund.Both Bi-Lo and Food Lion said they are offering refunds on any beef sold at their stores.The JBS recall involved so-called muscle beef, which can be cut into sirloins and ribeyes. In that case, bacteria is on the surface and cooks away quickly, experts said.“It’s OK to buy steaks,” USDA spokeswoman Bryn Burkard saidBut some of the contaminated beef was ground, mixing in the bacteria.The ground beef should be safe if people make sure to clean food preparation areas, wash their hands thoroughly and cook the meat to at least 160 degrees before serving, Burkard said.JBS is now recalling about 380,000 pounds of beef products, up from the 41,000 pounds first announced last week.In addition to the 18 people falling ill, federal officials say an additional six cases might be tied to the recalled beef.The earlier recall covered products that were made April 21-22 and shipped to Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin.The Agriculture Department said that all the beef products in the expanded recall were produced April 21 and are in boxes bearing “EST. 969,” a package date of “042109” and a time stamp ranging from “0618” to “1130.”