E coli cases in 4 states prompt ground beef recall

Reports of 11 Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections in four states have triggered a recall of 1.8 million pounds of a Detroit company's ground beef that was destined for restaurants, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said today.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) received a report on the illnesses on May 12 and, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified a link between ground beef from Wolverine Packing Company and the illnesses. Investigations into the illnesses found onset dates ranging from Apr 22 to May 2.

The FSIS said the ground beef was produced between Mar 31 and Apr 18 and sent to distributors for restaurant use in Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio. None of the products were sent to the Department of Defense or the National School Lunch Program or made available through catalog or Internet sales.

Possible Michigan connection

Five of the cases may be from Michigan. On May 14 the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) said it and health departments in five different counties were investigating a recent cluster of E coli O157:H7 infections. Five illnesses were reported, all in adults ages 20 to 41 with symptom onsets from Apr 22 to May 1.

Three of the Michigan patients were hospitalized but none had hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially fatal kidney complication. No deaths were reported.

Lab analysis showed that the Michigan illnesses are linked to a common source, and preliminary investigation suggests that the sick patients ate undercooked ground beef at several different restaurants in multiple locations, the MDCH said.

According to a detailed list of the recalled ground beef, products include patties and bulk products.

E coli O157:H7 produces a toxin that can cause diarrhea, often bloody, and abdominal cramps, but usually no fever. The illness typically resolves in 5 to 10 days, but it can cause HUS in 2% to 7% of patients.

See also:

May 19 USDA news release

May 14 MDCH statement

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