Burger King Corp. cleaned its plate of Hudson Foods Inc. products this past weekend when it removed all beef products produced by the processor from its restaurants and announced that it would no longer buy beef from Hudson's Columbus, Neb., plant.
Beef patties contaminated with E. coli bacteria were traced back to the plant, which prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ask for a recall of 25 million pounds of hamburger and order the plant to destroy all of its inventory and cease operations.
About 10% of Burger King outlets experienced a beef shortage due to the corporate decision to pull the Hudson Foods beef. Restaurants in 27 states were affected, although Burger King stressed that it found no evidence of contaminated product within its outlets and that its flame-broiling method had been proven to destroy such bacteria. Burger King accounts for a major portion of the Columbus plant's raw-ground-beef sales. Other Hudson Foods customers include Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Safeway Inc., and Boston Market stores.
Hudson Foods officials suspect that the E. coli problem did not originate at its plant and said, in statement following Burger King's decision: "We remain convinced that the problem was brought into the plant by an outside supplier." Hudson Foods says it will attempt to gain USDA approval to reopen the Columbus plant.