E. coli Strain in Latest Outbreak not Regulated

Yesterday, we wrote that Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. recalled 8,500 lbs of ground beef after three people were sickened with <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">E. coli 026. This strain, said AOL.com, is not regulated by the US government, but has been linked to illnesses in at least two states.

The USDA deemed the recall Class I, which means a health hazard situation exists in which there exists a reasonable probability that consumption of the recalled ground beef will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death. Consumers are strongly encouraged to check their freezers and immediately discard any recalled ground beef.

More illnesses are expected with the Labor Day holiday weekend approaching, noted AOL.com. The holiday is a big draw for barbeques, picnics, and hamburgers.

Cargill Meat Solutions Corp., the supplier involved, is the second largest beef processor in the US, said AOL.com. Recalled meat was sent to Connecticut and Maryland for further distribution to other states. Yesterday we wrote that, according to a report on CNN.com, it is believed certain BJ’s Wholesale Club stores in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia received the recalled ground beef.

According to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) press release, there is an association between the ground beef subject to recall and the illnesses, which occurred in Maine and New York. Mike Martin, Cargill spokesman said the three reported illness did not involve hospitalizations.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) received notification on August 5th from Maine health and agriculture officials that they were following two patients diagnosed with E. coli 026, said AOL.com. New York state officials stated that a patient there was also sick with E. coli 026; health officials are tracking others who have fallen ill in the Northeast, wrote AOL.com.

E. coli O26 is a bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors, and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact a health care provider.

Many E. coli strains can be found in humans and animals, with some very dangerous, even deadly, noted AOL.com. While the government heavily regulates E. coli 0157:H7, many non0157 strains are not monitored, although they do cause serious illnesses: 026, 0103, 0111, 0121, 045, and 0145, said AOL.com. According to CDC estimates, some 36,700 illnesses, 1,100 hospitalizations, and 30 deaths are linked to these pathogens annually, said AOL.com, which noted that the USDA will not regulate these pathogens.

Because only a limited number of labs actually test for these pathogens and physicians typically do not call for tests of these E. coli strains, it is believed that many more illnesses are likely linked to these, added the AOL.com.

Not unexpectedly, earlier this month, the American Meat Institute wrote to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack asking it to not seek safety mandates for non0157 strains of E. coli saying that such mandates violate the president’s food safety policies saying, “making a pathogen illegal through a policy change will not prevent this pathogen from occurring,” quoted AOL.com of organization president Patrick Boyle’s letter.

Meanwhile, Dr. Elizabeth Hagen was sworn in as undersecretary for food safety, said AOL.com. Dr. Hagen was previously the chief medical officer at the FSIS and is believed to be a significant force in the fight for food safety.

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