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WASHINGTON — Twenty-three packages of frozen ground beef packaged on the same date as that which is suspected to have made three Japanese children ill have been pulled from commissary shelves across the Pacific.

Army Col. Tom Pool, commander of the Pacific Regional Veterinary Command, spoke with Stripes via phone Friday from command headquarters in Hawaii and stressed that those numbers were not final.

The packages were pulled from commissaries in Japan, South Korea, Guam, Singapore and Hawaii, Pool said.

Three children on Okinawa contracted the E. coli bacteria, U.S. Forces Japan officials learned on Feb. 20.

USFJ reported Wednesday that it was unknown how the family got the beef.

“I don’t know that we’re ever going to have a better feel for” the chain of custody, Pool said.

No stores have reported customers returning products with the Aug. 11 date, said Nancy O’Nell, public affairs officer for the Western Pacific Region of the Defense Commissary Agency.

And there is no change expected to the food inspection process in theater, O’Nell said.

“If it was [fresh] ground beef, then yes,” said Pool, the in-theater inspection process would change. The 0157:H7 form of E. coli, which can cause gastric distress, is almost always traced to the slaughtering location.

At Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, Japan, 10 to 15 boxes of beef patties marked with the dates in question were reportedly pulled from commissary shelves.

— Stripes’ Tim Flack and David Allen contributed to this report from Japan and Okinawa, respectively.


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