January 16, 2018

Breakthrough in Hannaford Ground Beef Salmonella Outbreak

The Centers for Disease Control said on Friday that 19 people in seven states have become ill with infections from the same strain of Salmonella Typhimurium, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Two separate samples of leftover ground beef from Hannaford markets tested positive for the outbreak strain. They were collected from unrelated victim’s homes in New York and Maine.

Identification of the DNA of bacteria involved in an outbreak is critical both to establish the source of the contamination and to slow or halt the outbreak. This can save lives and reduce illness, since once the source is established, the contaminated foods can be impounded and recalled before more consumers eat them. Pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) is one way scientists “fingerprint” bacteria for identification.

The recall of the ground beef, which began on December 16 2011, started an outbreak with seven people. Four more people became ill a few days later. So far 19 people have been sickened.

Antibiotic-resistant Salmonella is not considered an illegal adulterant in foods. The three bacteria that are classified as illegal adulterants are E. coli 0157:H7 in ground beef, Salmonella in ready-to-eat foods, and Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) wants the FDA to make antibiotic-resistant Salmonella illegal in foods too.

Critics have said that slack record-keeping and little or no traceability is hindering the investigation into the source of the outbreak. The USDA said that Hannaford’s records were “limited”. Hannaford announced that it would no longer mix beef from different sources before they grind it, which should make it easier to trace future outbreaks.

It is up to the consumer to protect themselves in many cases of food poisoning, especially since many antibiotic-resistant pathogens are not classified as adulterants. Always follow food safety rules, including cooking ground beef and meat to 165 degrees F.

 

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