Wisconsin-based Emmpak Foods has expanded its recall of contaminated ground beef to 2.3 million pounds in a continued fight against a possible E. coli outbreak, the Agriculture Department told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

The meatpacker recalled 416,000 pounds of ground beef in September in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The beef was sold in grocery stores, hotels, restaurants and other food institutions nationwide.

The recall was initiated after food safety inspectors reviewed plant practices and company records at Emmpak, which does business as Peck Meats.

"I strongly encourage consumers of ground beef to check their refrigerators and freezers for the recalled product," Garry L. McKee, administrator for the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, said in a statement.

Minnesota health officials and federal inspectors had found people were sickened by foods associated with an E. coli outbreak in Minnesota. Inspectors are continuing to investigate other E. coli-related illnesses in other states, officials said.

The Agriculture Department recently announced that it is toughening food safety policies. The move gives the agency greater authority to shut down packing plants where contamination is found.

For more on this recall, check out http://www.fsis.usda.gov/index.htm

Associated Press