The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not believe that it will be able to determine the source of the salmonella that sickened at least 19 people and prompted Hannaford Supermarkets last month to issue a chain-wide recall of its store-brand ground beef.
Officials from the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service said Friday that they plan to close the investigation within a week.
The officials said Hannaford's "high-risk practices" for grinding beef were the barrier in their investigation, although those practices did not break any regulatory requirements and are probably used by other meat retailers.
The practices involve making packages of ground beef by using the trimmings from steaks and roasts that are cut in stores. Hannaford spokesman Michael Norton has said that trimmings constitute about 20 percent of the ground beef in store-brand packages. Most ground beef comes to the company in tubes of coarsely ground meat that is ground again in the stores.
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