The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) just announced a Class I recall involving “high risk” over approximately 1.8 million pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with the dangerous, sometimes deadly foodborne pathogen, E. coli O157:H7. The meat was produced by the Wolverine Packing Company of Detroit, Michigan, and an illness outbreak cluster has been associated with the recalled beef products.
According to the FSIS, the recalled ground beef products were produced between March 31, 2014 and April 18, 2014 and involve product sent to distribution centers nationwide for restaurant and retail use across the country. The recalled products bear establishment number “EST. 2574B” and will also bear a production date code in the format “Packing Nos: MM DD 14” between “03 31 14” and “04 18 14.” According to the FSIS, the products were not shipped to the Department of Defense or the National School Lunch Program and were not shipped for catalog or Internet sales.
The factors that may contribute to the size of the recall includes possible contamination of additional products due to a lack of microbiological independence between lots in a production day and any deficiency in supportive record keeping by distributors, according to the FSIS.
FSIS was notified of a number of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses on May 12, 2014. Collaborating with public health partners from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FSIS determined, through a traceback investigation, that a link exists between the Wolverine Packing Company ground beef products and an 11-patient illness cluster. The epidemiological and traceback investigations revealed that the 11 case-patients were identified in four states; illness onset dates ranged from April 22, 2014 to May 2, 2014.
E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that may lead to dehydration, bloody diarrhea, and abdominal cramps two-to-eight days following exposure to the contaminated product. In some cases, contamination may lead to a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS may occur in people of any age; however, HUS is most commonly seen in young children, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems. Symptoms include easy bruising, pallor, and decreased urine output.
FSIS advises consumers to safely prepare raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and to only consume ground beef that has been cooked to a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The only way to confirm that ground beef is cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature.