Nationwide E. Coli Outbreak Linked to Ground Beef Recall

At least 11 people in four states have been sickened as part of an E. coli food poisoning outbreak, which may be linked to nearly 2 million pounds of ground beef that is now being recalled.  

On May 19, the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced a ground beef recall for 1.8 million pounds of ground meat distributed nationwide by the Wolverine Packing Company in Detroit, Michigan. The recall came after several cases of E. coli O157:H7 food poisoning were traced back to burgers made from the ground beef.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the E. coli outbreak has sickened five people in Michigan, four in Ohio, and one each in Massachusetts and Missouri. Six of the victims required hospitalization. The illness onset dates appear to range from April 22 to May 8.

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The CDC has launched a webpage to track and provide information about the outbreak.

The investigation into the outbreak began following a number of illnesses linked to hamburgers sold at restaurants. The CDC has not yet identified the restaurants that sold the tainted meat. Investigators said that they were able to interview 10 of those who had fallen ill and all had recently eaten hamburgers sold at restaurants that were made with meat from Wolverine Packing Company.

The FSIS was notified on May 8, leading to this week’s recall.

The recall affects 1.8 million pounds of ground beef with an establishment number of “EST. 2574B.” The recalled ground beef will have production dates from 03 31 14 to 04 18 14. The ground beef was shipped to distributors for use in restaurants as well as retail sales. A full list of products affected by the recall is available here.

E. coli O157:H7 is one of the more common causes of food poisoning in the United States. When left untreated, it can lead to dehydration, bloody diarrhea, and abdominal cramps that can last for two to eight days. It can also lead to potentially life-threatening complications. Young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are at heightened risk of more severe illnesses.

In rare cases, E. coli infections can lead to a form of kidney failure known as Hemolytic-Urenia Syndrome (HUS). No cases of HUS have yet been reported in connection with this outbreak.

FSIS and the CDC are asking restaurants to check their ground beef products for the recalled establishment number, as well as those who may have purchased the ground beef via retail sales. The agencies warn restaurants and consumers not to attempt to serve or sell the ground beef, and not to attempt to cook it. People who have eaten the recalled meat should watch themselves for signs of an E. coli infection.

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