December 4, 2016

Two E. coli Outbreaks in NH and CO and Two Recalls: Coincidence?

Something unusual happened this week. The USDA posted two recalls for beef products on the same day, recalled for E. coli O157:H7. And in those recall notices there was information that the products had been linked, or possibly linked, to two E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks; one in New Hampshire and one in Colorado.

Ground beef

The first recall was for more than 8,000 pounds of PT Farm raw beef products that were produced in June 2016. The illness cluster associated with this recall has sickened at least 14 people in New Hampshire. Traceback for 8 case-patients who were interviewed as a result of their illnesses “led back to a single day of production at PT Farm,” according to the USDA release. There is a link between beef products from PT Farm and this illness cluster.

The second recall was for 2,606 pounds of non-intact beef products from Good Food Concepts, LLC, doing business as Ranch Foods Direct in Colorado. Those products were also produced in June 2016. The USDA notice states that “FSIS confirmed ground beef products originating from Ranch Foods Direct were adulterated with E. coli O157:H7 on July 25, 2016 through laboratory testing and traceback investigation.” One person has been identified in this outbreak; that person got sick on June 12, 2016.

First, the government is concerned that these products may be frozen in consumers’ freezers. Handling these products, if they are adulterated with E. coli bacteria, is not safe. Even if you cook the beef to a safe final internal temperature of 160°F, the bacteria could still make toxins that are not destroyed by heat. Do not use this beef if you have it.

And second, we don’t know if these two processors purchased beef from the same slaughterhouse or not. It’s possible that a link may be found between these two outbreaks, but there is no news on that yet. Or this could just be a coincidence. Stay tuned and we will keep you informed.

The symptoms of an E. coli infection include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and a mild fever. Most people recover on their own without medical treatment, but some become so sick they must be hospitalized. In fact, five people in the New Hampshire outbreak are in the hospital.

If an E. coli infection is improperly treated, or if the patient is very young or elderly or has health problems, this illness can become hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can destroy the kidneys. The symptoms of HUS include little or no urine output, easy bruising, skin rash, bleeding from the nose or mouth, and lethargy. If anyone is experiencing these symptoms, they must be taken to a doctor immediately.

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