An investigation into Escherichia coli O26 illnesses, mostly in Florida, has prompted the Publix supermarket chain to voluntarily recall ground chuck shipped to stores in two dozen Florida counties, the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced yesterday.
The FSIS said it was notified about the E coli probe on Aug 16 and that it, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state health and agriculture partners have determined that raw ground chuck was the likely source of the illnesses.
The investigation identified 18 patients, mainly from Florida, the FSIS said. The Florida Department of Health (Florida Health) said yesterday that so far there are 15 cases in the state associated with the recalled ground beef. It added that the recalled products may still be in consumers' refrigerators or freezers, and it warned those who purchased them to throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.
Meat producer not named
Though the trace-back investigation pointed to ground chuck products sold by various Publix supermarkets, the supplier of the potentially contaminated beef has not yet been identified.
Publix said in its statement that it is alerting customers who bought the products from Jun 25 to Jul 31 in 24 Florida counties: Brevard, Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, DeSoto, Flagler, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Lucie, Sumter, and Volusia.
It said Publix stores in Florida outside those counties and stores in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Virginia are not included in the recall.
The ground chuck included packages of plain meat, burgers, gourmet burgers, seasoned burgers, meatballs, meatloaf, sliders, and stuffed peppers.
Publix said products currently in its stores are not part of the recall and should be considered safe for proper cooking and consumption. The USDA advises consumers to eat only ground beef that has been cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C).
Low risk of kidney condition
The FSIS said that, like E coli O157:H7, E coli O126 is Shiga toxin–producing, and most people become ill 2 to 8 days after exposure.
Symptoms include diarrhea, often bloody, and vomiting. Some patients experience a severe form of the illness, but hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially fatal kidney condition, is uncommon with E coli O26 infections.
Aug 30 USDA FSIS press release
Aug 30 Florida Health statement
Aug 30 Publix statement