Ground beef recall linked to cluster of E. coli O157 illnesses in New England

USDA FSIS has announced a recall of 545,699 pounds of fresh ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and distributed in seven states. According to FSIS, the product has been linked to a cluster of illnesses in New England.

There are quite a few recalls going on most of the time; this one is notable because this product has been linked to an outbreak of illnesses at a camp in Massachusetts. It’s also notable because bulk amounts of the product were shipped down the East Coast for further processing. Retail outlets receiving some of this product include Shaw, Giant, Price Chopper,Trader Joe’s, BJs and others.

From the press release:
"Products for further processing:
     Each case bears the establishment number "EST. 492" inside the USDA mark of inspection; has package dates of "09.14.09," "09.15.09," or "09.16.09;" and sell-by dates of "10.3.09," "10.4.09," or "10.5.09. These products were distributed to retail establishments in Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia for further processing. However, these products at retail will likely not bear the package dates and sell-by dates listed above. Customers with concerns should contact their point of purchase."

It is unlikely that any of the product is still being sold fresh at retail stores (the best-if-sold-before dates range from mid-September to early October) but it’s likely that the affected beef is still around in freezers. The meat juices from thawing can provide a nice vehicle for pathogen transfer.

Stick it in with a tip-sensitive digital thermometer (in multiple spots) to ensure that ground beef has reached a safe temperature and be vigilant in containing meat juices when thawing frozen meats. Juicy is good, nasty meat juice spread around the kitchen isn’t.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.