E coli cases prompt beef recall by Illinois firm

Oct 15, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – An Illinois company has recalled about 173,500 pounds of frozen ground beef products because of a possible connection with Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections, as the number of cases in other recent foodborne illness outbreaks continued to mount.

On Oct 13, J&B Meats Corp., Inc., based in Coal Valley, Ill., voluntarily recalled frozen ground sirloin and beef patties that were produced on Jun 12, 18, and 22, and were nationally distributed to retail stores, according to an Oct 13 statement from the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The company recalled the products after the FSIS received illness reports through its consumer complaint monitoring system.

The FSIS did not specify the number of E coli cases or their locations.

The frozen beef patties, sold under the Topps and Sam's Choice brands, bear the establishment number "Est. 5712" on their package labels, the FSIS said.

In a statement today, J&B Meats said the beef patties were made for Topps Meat Co., though J&B is not a subsidiary of Topps. The latter company, based in Elizabeth, N.J., in late September announced a recall of 21.7 million pounds of ground beef because of potential E coli contamination. The company subsequently announced it couldn't survive the financial blow and was going out of business.

E coli O157:H7 produces a toxin that causes diarrhea, often bloody, and abdominal cramps but usually no fever. The illness usually resolves in 5 to 10 days, but it can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), potentially leading to kidney failure or death, in 2% to 7% of patients.

Health officials are concerned about what appears to be a surge in the number of ground beef recalls for E coli O157:H7 contamination. A few days after the Topps Meat recall, Cargill Meat Solutions of Butler, Wis., recalled about 845,000 pounds of frozen ground beef because of possible E coli contamination. The recall was announced after Minnesota health officials linked three illness reports to the company's beef patties, which were sold through Sam's Club stores.

In the Topps outbreak, the number of related illness cases has risen to 38 in eight states, according to an Oct 11 statement from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most of the patients sickened in the Topps outbreak are from the Northeast. Of 26 people for whom hospitalization status was known, 17 (65%) were hospitalized, and one had HUS.

Meanwhile, CDC officials who are monitoring a Salmonella outbreak linked by epidemiologic investigations to ConAgra's Banquet pot pies said in an Oct 12 update that isolates of Salmonella enterica serotype I,4,[5],12:i:- had been collected from at least 174 patients in 32 states. At least 33 people have been hospitalized. Salmonellosis typically causes fever and nonbloody diarrhea that resolves within a week.

Though investigators have not isolated the outbreak strain from the pot pies or the company's Marshall, Mo., production facility, the company recalled all varieties of Banquet pot pies on Oct 12 to simplify its message that consumers should not eat the pot pies.

ConAgra has said that it believes the illnesses are probably due to undercooking by consumers. Microwave ovens vary in power, can cook products unevenly, and can lose some of their power as they age. The company also said it would revise cooking directions on packages to clarify safe preparation steps.

See also:

Oct 13 FSIS recall notice

Oct 15 J&B Meats statement

Oct 11 CDC update on illness linked to Topps E coli outbreak

Oct 12 CDC update on illnesses linked to ConAgra Salmonella outbreak

Oct 9 CIDRAP News story "Spike in E coli–related beef recalls alarms officials"

Oct 12 CIDRAP News story "ConAgra recalls pot pies as Salmonella cases rise"

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