More than 50 E coli cases may be linked with Wisconsin firm's ground beef recall


Oct 2, 2002 (CIDRAP News) – More than 50 recent cases of E coli O157:H7 infection in Wisconsin and several other states may be linked with ground beef that was recalled last week by a company in Milwaukee, according to state and federal health officials.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Sep 27 that Emmpak Foods, Inc., of Milwaukee, doing business as Peck Meats, was recalling about 416,000 pounds of ground beef because of possible E coli O157:H7 contamination. Retail packages included in the recall had "sell by" dates of Aug 29 to 31 and Sep 1 and 2, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said. The packages listed the establishment code "EST. 20654" inside the USDA inspection seal.

As of Sep 30, Wisconsin officials had identified 34 cases of E coli O157:H7 infection in which clinical isolates were matched by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, according to Dr Jeff Davis, chief medical officer and state epidemiologist for communicable diseases in the Wisconsin Division of Public Health. Davis said another matching case was found in Illinois and 15 more have been identified in Michigan, Indiana, and New York.

In addition, health officials have identified six cases in Minnesota that match the Wisconsin outbreak strain, according to Doug Schultz, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Health in St. Paul.

The outbreak strain of E coli matched a strain found in samples of ground beef recovered from the homes of two Wisconsin patients and one patient in Minnesota, Davis reported. Those ground beef samples all came from retail stores that bought ground beef only from Emmpak Foods, according to Richard Danila, PhD, MPH, Minnesota's assistant state epidemiologist in Minneapolis.

In the FSIS recall announcement, FSIS Administrator Dr. Garry L. McKee said, "Consumers need to know that consumption of this product has caused food-related illness."

Davis said the 34 Wisconsin cases represent the second of two recent E coli outbreaks in the state, but no link between the two outbreaks has been found. The first one, involving 19 cases, has been epidemiologically linked with eating ground beef but has not been traced to a specific company or production date, he said. Illness onset dates for the first outbreak ranged from Jul 26 to Sep 1, and dates for the second outbreak ranged from Aug 21 to Sep 16, he said.

Nineteen patients were hospitalized in the two outbreaks (11 in the first and 8 in the second), but there have been no deaths, Davis reported.

McKee said consumers should check their refrigerators for the products and return them to the store.

See also:

FSIS news release

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