Whole Foods Market has recalled all its recently sold fresh ground beef after reports that nine customers - including two at its North Wales store - may have been sickened by

E. coli

bacteria.

The recall is part of a larger recall by Nebraska Beef Ltd. of Omaha, which processed the Whole Foods products. Nebraska Beef announced Friday that it was recalling 1.2 million pounds processed since June 12. Its products have been linked to illnesses in 12 states, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Libya Letton, a spokeswoman for Whole Foods Markets, said yesterday that investigators from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had not found E. coli in any fresh beef sold at Whole Foods stores.

But she said investigators had discovered that two people who recently became ill with E. coli reported they had eaten beef bought at the North Wales store in Montgomery County. The seven other Whole Foods customers who reportedly got sick were in Massachusetts.

Letton said that she did not know how much beef Whole Foods was recalling, but that it was asking anyone who bought fresh beef at its stores between June 2 and Wednesday to return it for a refund.

"There hasn't been a direct link to us," she said, but she added that Whole Foods was carrying out the voluntary recall "out of an abundance of caution on the chance that anyone could get sick."

She said Whole Foods got its beef from the Coleman Meat Co. of Colorado, which the stores label as "natural." She said that meant it was raised much like organic beef, but that Coleman was not a registered organic-meat producer.

According to Letton, Coleman sends its slaughtered cattle to Nebraska Beef for processing.

Nebraska Beef was associated with E. coli outbreaks in previous months, but U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Amanda Eamich said July 10 that the company had made sufficient improvements to ensure safety.

Contact staff writer David O'Reilly at 215-854-5723 or doreilly@phillynews.com.
This article contains information from the Associated Press.