Burger King offered hamand-cheese sandwiches instead of Whoppers for lunch Friday as the fast-food chain sought new beef supplies to replace hamburger recalled from a Hudson Foods plant here.
Some customers were buying it but others went elsewhere for lunch.
“You can’t have Burger King without burgers,” said David Clouse of Aurora, Colo., who turned around and left after learning there were no burgers at a restaurant in Arapahoe County. “It’s just not the same.”
Spokesmen for Burger King rivals McDonald’s and Wendy’s restaurants said it was too soon to tell whether their business had increased or whether people were avoiding hamburgers altogether in the wake of the largest meat recall in U.S. history.
Ed Hatter, owner of Hatter Investments Inc., which owns 13 Burger Kings in Spokane and North Idaho said the Hudson beef recall does not affect fast-food restaurants in this area. They do not receive beef from Hudson’s. Still it has been a subject of concern among customers.
“We really haven’t been affected, but we’ve had a lot of customers who have been inquiring about the beef,” Hatter said. “It never did affect us. We were just not part of that. We just don’t have any (beef) from Hudson Foods.”
Burger King said 1,650 of its restaurants in 28 states were affected by the recall Thursday of 25 million pounds of Hudson Foods hamburger. The fast-food chain was not the only business affected by the recall, but it was the most visible.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture was not sure Friday where all the hamburger from the Hudson plant had been shipped. Spokeswoman Jacque Knight said that is part of the USDA’s investigation.
Hudson supplied ground beef for some Boston Markets restaurants and frozen beef patties sold at Safeway, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. All of the stores removed the products from their shelves.
People with Hudson hamburgers in their freezer should return them to the place where they purchased them, Ms. Knight said. All of the meat will be returned to Hudson, which will decide whether to burn it or render it into pet food, she said.
The recall began after health officials traced the illnesses of more than a dozen people in Colorado to hamburger patties they ate in early June.
At first, 20,000 pounds of beef were affected, but the recall grew as the USDA found problems with records for tracing meat production.
Hudson Foods agreed Thursday to recall all the beef that had been processed at the plant - some 1.2 million pounds - and to shut down the plant until stronger safety recommendations were met.
Company officials met with workers Friday but there was no indication of when the plant might reopen.
The Agriculture Department has said the contamination did not occur at the plant, but at one of Hudson’s suppliers.
It was not known, however, which supplier had sent the tainted beef to the plant.
Although Burger King’s beef came from a different production line at the plant than the tainted beef, the recall left the company scrambling for new beef from different suppliers. Burger King said 700 restaurants were burgerless Friday.
The Minneapolis, Omaha and Denver areas were hardest hit.
Burger Kings without Whoppers extended the time they serve breakfast menus featuring pork patties, urged customers to check out the chicken and added bacon, lettuce and tomato and ham sandwiches for lunch.
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