J.M. Schneider Inc. of Ontario, Canada, is recalling 20,000 pounds of frankfurters distributed to grocery stores throughout the Northeast because the meat may be contaminated, the Agriculture Department said yesterday.

Officials said the franks are suspected of being contaminated by Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause listeriosis, a potentially serious disease.

The product, labeled "Schneider's Franks," is sold in one-pound plastic packages. The words "Canada 35" appear inside the inspection seal on the label. All packages bearing the "Best before" date of "Jul 03" are being recalled.

"Although no illnesses have been reported, we urge consumers to return the suspect franks to the place of purchase," said Ronald J. Prucha, associate administrator of USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The problem with the franks was discovered May 31 during a routine USDA import inspection in Buffalo. Lab tests confirmed the bacterial contamination, said agency spokesman Jim Greene.

"In general, healthy people are believed to be at little risk from listeriosis," the announcement said. "Most vulnerable are those with weakened immune systems -- infants, the elderly and the chronically ill. Listeriosis in pregnant women can cause miscarriage."

Symptoms in adults include the sudden onset of flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, backache and sometimes abdominal pain and diarrhea. In newborns, symptoms include respiratory distress, refusal to drink and vomiting.

Consumers with questions about the recall may call the USDA hotline at 1-800- 535-4555 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Washington area consumers can call 447-3333.

Defective Seat Belts

General Motors Corp. is recalling about 1.6 million Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird cars from the 1984 through 1990 model years to fix defective latch mechanisms in their safety-belt buckles.

GM said that in most cases, the defective latching or release of the belts is caused by a red plastic push button in the assembly that may be weakened by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

"We are aware of one injury accident which may involve this particular condition," company spokesman Tom Pyden said.

Owners are advised to inspect their safety belts periodically; if they are inoperable, immediate replacement is recommended.

Owners not needing immediate service will be sent a letter later this year for replacement or repair as parts become available.

GM will repair or replace all affected belt-buckle assemblies free of charge, Pyden said.