A former ConAgra Foods beef plant, which carried out a massive meat recall last year, was cited more than 300 times for violating federal food safety regulations in the last three years.

The Greeley, Colorado plant, which is now owned by Swift & Co, recalled nearly 19 million pounds of ground beef last July due to an outbreak of E. coli that caused 27 illnesses and one death.

During the first half of 2002, before the recall, the plant was cited 33 times for violating food safety regulations, according to USDA documents obtained by Reuters.

Some Democratic lawmakers have criticised the USDA for allowing the plant to continue production when the food safety problems had been documented.

The plant is one of the largest slaughtering operations in the country, with an average of 5,500 head of cattle slaughtered daily.