first_imgEvelyn Hidalgo, who worked for a year in personnel at the plant, described the mood there Friday as “very somber.” She added, “Everybody came in this morning like it was a regular day. Then we had a meeting and that was it. It’s heartbreaking.” Topps faces at least two lawsuits filed since the recall; one from the family of an upstate New York girl who became ill, and one seeking class-action status on behalf of all people who bought or ate the hamburgers. The closing, or any subsequent bankruptcy, does not derail the lawsuits.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! NEWARK, N.J. – It took 67 years to build Topps Meat Co. into one of the country’s largest suppliers of frozen beef patties; it took just six days to bring it down. Topps, which began grinding beef before the nation entered World War II and eventually had its products sold in stores across the country, announced on Friday that it was shutting down. Closure of the privately held, Elizabeth-based company puts 87 employees out of work and comes after Topps was forced to issue the second-largest beef recall in U.S. history on Sept. 29. The culprit was 21.7 million pounds of frozen beef patties – an entire year of production – that may have been tainted with potentially fatal E. coli bacteria. The Topps recall raised questions about whether the U.S. Agriculture Department should have acted quicker to encourage a recall, and on Thursday, top USDA officials said they would speed warnings in the future. Thirty people in eight states had E. coli infections matching the strain found in the Topps patties, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. None have died. Topps conceded that much of the recalled meat had already been eaten, and on Friday expressed regret that its product had been linked to illnesses. “We hope and pray for the full recovery of those individuals,” said Topps chief operating officer Anthony D’Urso, a member of the family that founded the company in 1940. “This is tragic for all concerned,” D’Urso said in a statement. Workers left the plant in small groups Friday afternoon, most carrying personal belongings. last_img read more