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Food Poison Journal Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Monthly Archives: October 2009

E. coli O157:H7 is the source of an estimated 73,000 illnesses, 2,000 hospitalizations, and 60 deaths in the United States every year

The bacterium was first identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1975, but was not conclusively determined to be a cause of enteric disease until 1982, following outbreaks of foodborne illness that involved several cases of bloody diarrhea. At that time, E. coli O157:H7 was firmly associated with hemorrhagic colitis. The majority of infections are thought to be food-related, although E. coli O157:H7 accounts for less than one percent of all food poisoning cases.

E. coli O157:H7 bacteria are believed to mostly live in the intestines of cattle but have also been found in the intestines of chickens, deer, sheep, goats, and pigs. E. coli O157:H7 does not make the animals that carry it ill; the animals are merely the reservoir for the bacterium.

While a large number of foodborne illness outbreaks associated with E. coli O157:H7 have involved ground beef, such outbreaks have been increasingly associated with fresh produce, such as lettuce and spinach, but outbreaks have also been traced to unpasteurized apple and orange juices, raw milk, alfalfa sprouts, and water. Person-to-person transmission of the bacterium has been documented in homes, hospitals, daycare centers, nursing homes and many other locations.

E. coli O157:H7 infection is characterized by the sudden onset of abdominal pain and severe cramps, followed within 24 hours by diarrhea. As the disease progresses, the diarrhea becomes watery and then may become grossly bloody – bloody to the naked eye. Vomiting, and rarely fever, can also be symptoms. The incubation period for the illness (the period from ingestion of the bacterium to the start of symptoms) is typically three to nine days, although slightly shorter and longer periods are not that unusual. An incubation period of less than 24 hours would be unusual, however. In most infected individuals, the intestinal illness lasts about a week and resolves without any long-term problems.

Although most people recover from E. coli O157:H7 infection, about five to ten percent of infected individuals develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe, life-threatening complication of E. coli O157:H7 bacterial infection. HUS develops when E. coli’s toxins enter the circulation by binding to special receptors. During HUS, red blood cells are destroyed and cellular debris accumulates within the blood vessels while the body’s clot-breaking mechanisms are disrupted, causing blockage of the terminal arterioles and capillaries (microcirculation) of most of the major body organs, commonly the heart, brain, kidneys, pancreas and adrenals.

E. coli O157:H7 is responsible for over 90 percent of the cases of HUS that develop in North America. Some organs appear more susceptible than others to the damage caused by these toxins. These organs include the kidney, pancreas, and brain.

Some patients suffering from E. coli and HUS are diagnosed with Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (TTP), a clinical syndrome defined by the presence of thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet counts) and microangiopathic hemolytic anemia. It is sometimes called “Adult HUS”.

Contact your health care provider if you believe you have become ill with an E. coli infection.

Infection with E. coli O157:H7 is usually confirmed by detecting the bacterium in the stool of an infected individual through laboratory testing.

Antibiotics do not improve the illness, and some medical researchers believe that medications can increase the risk of complications. Therefore, apart from good supportive care, such as close attention to hydration and nutrition, there is no specific therapy for the treatment of E. coli O157:H7 infection. The recent finding that a toxin produced by E. coli O157:H7 initially greatly speeds up blood coagulation may lead to medical therapies in the future that could forestall the most serious consequences.

Trader Joe’s, Price Chopper, Shaw’s and BJ’s Linked to Prior E. coli O157:H7 Outbreaks

Trader Joe’s, Price Chopper, Lancaster, Wild Harvest, Shaw’s, BJ’s, Ford Brothers, and Giant stores have been linked to the recent recall of E. coli O157:H7-tainted hamburger produced by Fairbank Farms.  Trader Joe’s, Price Chopper, Shaw’s and BJ’s have been linked to prior E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks:

Trader Joe’s

June 9, 2007 – United Food Group, LLC, a Vernon, Calif., establishment, is voluntarily expanding its June 3 and 6 recalls to include a total of approximately 5.7 million pounds of both fresh and frozen ground beef products produced between April 6 and April 20 because they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced.

Price Chopper

June 26, 2009 – Price Chopper supermarket is recalling some of its ground beef and beef loin bottom sirloin steak products because of possible E. coli contamination. The recall, announced today, applies to purchases made between May 7th and May 16th; stores that may have sold the beef include those in Albany, Schenectady and Rensselaer counties, as well as neighboring Vermont and Massachusetts counties.

Price Chopper

In August, 2005, an eight-year-old Albany, New York girl became ill with an E. coli O157:H7 infection after eating a hamburger purchased from Price Chopper. The ground beef used in the hamburger had been supplied to Price Chopper by Topps Meats.

Price Chopper

September 2007 – Price Chopper Supermarkets has pulled Topps brand products after an E. coli scare, the company announced yesterday. The New York State Department of Agriculture tested Topps ground beef patties and found E. coli in 3- and 5-pound boxes of quarter-pound hamburger patties with a sell-by date of June 22, 2008. According to Price Chopper, the tests are preliminary. The USDA is reviewing the state’s findings and neither agency has confirmed E. coli. In a statement, Price Chopper said, to be safe, it recalled the beef patties and all other Topps products. The recall affects stores throughout the state, including three stores in the Mid-Hudson: Middletown, Vails Gate and Newburgh.

Shaw’s

June 16, 1998 – A woman who says she ate undercooked beef from a Shaw’s Supermarket in Warwick came down with a mild E. coli infection last month, state health officials said yesterday. The case is the first in Rhode Island to be linked to tainted meat at the supermarket chain, which last Friday recalled beef sold at its 124 New England stores. The recall followed the discovery of E. coli, an intestinal bacteria, in samples from two outlets in Keene and Lebanon, N.H. The woman’s case is significant because it could help federal investigators narrow the search for the supplier of the contaminated meat.

Shaw’s

September 5, 2007 – Fairbank Reconstruction Corp., doing business as Fairbank Farms, an Ashville, N.Y., establishment, is voluntarily recalling approximately 884 pounds of ground beef products because they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced.

BJ’s

In 2002, several children became ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections which were traced to the consumption of ground beef sold at BJ’s Wholesale Club stores in New York and New Jersey. Remaining ground beef was recalled, but the children were so severely injured after suffering from Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) that their families sought to recover damages from BJ’s through the legal system.

Fairbank Farms linked to at least two prior hamburger recalls

October 31, 2009 – Fairbank Farms, an Ashville, NY, establishment, is recalling approximately 545,699 pounds of fresh ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

May 12, 2008 – Fairbank Reconstruction Corp., an Ashville, NY, establishment, is voluntarily recalling approximately 22,481 pounds of ground beef products that may contain pieces of plastic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced today.

September 5, 2007 – Fairbank Reconstruction Corp., doing business as Fairbank Farms, an Ashville, N.Y., establishment, is voluntarily recalling approximately 884 pounds of ground beef products because they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced today.

Massachusetts E. coli Lawsuit Likely Linked to 546,000 Pounds of Hamburger

Firm Recalls 546,000 pounds tied to E. coli Illnesses – Over 41,000,000 pounds recalled in last two years.

The first lawsuit stemming from the E. coli outbreak in Massachusetts and likely Rhode Island, will be filed Monday in the Trial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Superior Court, against Crocetti-Oakdale Packing, doing business as South Shore Meats, Inc., which had recalled 1.039 pounds of E. coli tainted beef linked to illnesses.

The E. coli lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Marshfield, Massachusetts family, whose grandmother and children were infected with the pathogenic E. coli strain O157:H7 after eating ground beef purchased from the Star Market in Marshfield. The plaintiffs are represented by Marler Clark, a Seattle law firm dedicated to representing victims of foodborne illness.

In addition, on Saturday (10/31/09), Ashville NY firm Fairbank Farms recalled 546,000 pounds of beef products due to E. coli contamination. According to the USDA release, the meat has been linked to illnesses in Maine, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and distributed via retail outlets including Trader Joe’s, Price Chopper, Lancaster, Wild Harvest, Shaw’s, BJ’s, Ford Brothers, and Giant. Ground beef packaged under the Fairbank Farms name was also distributed to stores in Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

It appears that this recall is an expansion of the Crocetti-Oakdale Packing, doing business as South Shore Meats, Inc., recall of 1.039 pounds of E. coli tainted beef linked to illnesses in Massachusetts and likely Rhode Island. “This expansion is a massive recall, and the danger cannot be overstated,” said foodborne illness expert and attorney Bill Marler, who represents several families in the outbreak. “The last recall of this size—Nebraska Beef in August of 2008—sickened dozens. It means that tainted meat is in homes across the country, and we have to do our best to get the word out to consumers so that they don’t suffer the illnesses that these families have.”

A cluster of at least 20 E. coli illnesses were reported by middle schoolers and chaperones who visited Camp Bournedale in Plymouth, MA in mid-October. “At this time it is unclear if these illnesses are linked to either recall, however, the timing is quite suspicious,” added Marler.

With the recent recall of 1,039 pounds of hamburger contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, and the additional 546,000 pounds of hamburger recalled, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. Hamburger recalls since 2007 have now reached 41,958,504 pounds. And, this is not counting another recall from 2008. Then, Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co., a Chino, California establishment, voluntarily recalled approximately 143,383,823 pounds of raw and frozen beef products that FSIS had determined to be unfit for human food because the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection.

Recall of E. coli O157:H7 Tainted Ground Beef from Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia Linked to Fairbank Farms

In part from Fairbank Farms and USDA Press Release:

Fairbank Farms (USDA Establishment 492), a New York manufacturer of ground beef, has issued a voluntary recall for a specified line of fresh ground beef products sold in eight states. Approximately 545,699 pounds of fresh ground beef product produced between September 14 through September 16, 2009, may possibly be linked to E. coli O157:H7.

An important point of fact, the recalled products are very specifically defined and are past their expiration date by 23 to 32 days. This means they are no longer being sold as fresh product in supermarkets. The products were sold in the following states: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

To identify recalled products, consumers should check the package label and look for the product name, package weight and sell-by date. All labels will show an establishment number of EST 492 inside the USDA mark of inspection. Recalled products include:

ACME, BJ’s Wholesale Club/Burris, Ford Brothers, Giant Food Stores, Price Chopper, Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc., Trader Joe’s, "Other products:" – See Lables

Cases of 10-lb. Fairbank Farms fresh ground beef chubs (for store grind). These products had a sell date of 10/3/09, 10/4/09 or 10/5/09, but will likely not bear those sell-by dates on their package labels. These products were distributed to retail establishments in Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia for further processing. Consumers with concerns should contact their point of purchase.

It appears that this recall is an expansion of the Crocetti-Oakdale Packing, doing business as South Shore Meats, Inc., recall of 1.039 pounds of E. coli tainted beef linked to illnesses in Massachusetts and likely Rhode Island. “This expansion is a massive recall, and the danger cannot be overstated,” said foodborne illness expert and attorney Bill Marler, who represents several families in the outbreak. “The last recall of this size—Nebraska Beef in August of 2008—sickened dozens. It means that tainted meat is in homes across the country, and we have to do our best to get the word out to consumers so that they don’t suffer the illnesses that these families have.”

Produce Safety Project – States need more resources to track foodborne illnesses

A survey of state health departments regarding their capacity to track produce-related foodborne illnesses found that the response and investigation of outbreaks varies greatly and can lead to delays in public-health response.

The survey was commissioned by the Produce Safety Project (PSP), an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts at Georgetown University, and conducted by Safe Tables Our Priority (S.T.O.P.). Thirty-nine of the 51 state and District of Columbia health departments responded to the survey, which asked about the types of questions and questionnaires administered to victims of foodborne illness, the time frame in which they were completed, and how states collected and stored the resulting data for calendar year 2007.

Despite the increase in the number of multi-state outbreaks of illnesses linked to fresh produce over the past several years, the data show that only 25 of the 39 states responding to the PSP/S.T.O.P. survey asked victims about specific produce items – even if the item was associated with a past outbreak.

"It is important to learn from our experience, and so it is surprising that many states are failing to ask about fruits and vegetables on their questionnaires given to foodborne illness victims," said Jim O’Hara, PSP director.

"The lack of food attribution data and especially attribution to produce is astounding considering the large burden of foodborne illness in the U.S.," said Donna Rosenbaum, the Executive Director of S.T.O.P. "And it all starts with finding out what the person ate. The public health system cannot find what it’s not looking for or asking about. We certainly cannot fix the food safety system when we don’t know exactly where and how the contaminated produce makes it into the marketplace and onto consumers’ plates."

Nearly 60% (23 out of 39) of the responding states indicate that they are unable to electronically link their investigative data for analysis. An improved food safety system would include data from multiple sources in a single system that investigators can analyze quickly and efficiently.

"A critical step in improving our food safety system is better coordination on the types of information collected and better integration of that data at the state and local level," O’Hara said.

"There are important lessons learned in the data we collected which can lead to best practices being adopted, and ultimately to lives saved," Rosenbaum added.

For a copy of the executive summary and survey, visit producesafetyproject.org.

About the Produce Safety Project (PSP):

The Produce Safety Project at Georgetown University, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts, seeks the establishment by the Food and Drug Administration of mandatory and enforceable safety standards for domestic and imported fresh produce, from farm to fork. Our families need to have confidence that federal food safety regulation is based on prevention, scientifically sound risk assessment and management, and coordinated integrated data collection. For more information online, visit www.producesafetyproject.org.

About Safe Tables Our Priority, Inc. (S.T.O.P.): S.T.O.P. – Safe Tables Our Priority is a national, nonprofit, public health organization dedicated to preventing illness and death from foodborne pathogens. In 2009, S.T.O.P. will achieve its mission by advocating changes in public policy, educating and doing outreach, providing victim assistance, and formalizing a victims of foodborne illness registry in order to study the long-term consequences of foodborne disease. S.T.O.P. has been supporting families who have suffered from foodborne diseases nationwide since the Jack in the Box outbreak of 1993. For more information, visit www.safetables.org.

San Link Inc. Issues an Alert on Uneviscerated Vacuum Pack Dried Krasnoperka (Fish).

San Link Inc at 54B Marjorie Street Staten Island, NY 10309 is recalling Vacuum Pack Dried Krasnoperka (fish) because the product was found to be uneviscerated.

The recalled Vacuum Pack dried Krasnoperka (fish) was distributed in New York State, New Jersey State and Connecticut State in vacuum pack containers. The Vacuum Pack Dried Krasnoperka (fish) is a product of Russia.

The Vacuum Pack Dried Krasnoperka (fish) was sampled by a New York State Department of Agriculture and Market Food Inspector during a routine inspection. Subsequent analysis of the product by New York State Food Laboratory personnel confirmed that the Vacuum pack dried Krasnoperka (fish) was not properly eviscerated prior to processing.

The sale of unevicerated fish is prohibited under New York State Agriculture and Market regulations because Clostridium botulinum spores are more likely to be concentrated in the viscera than any other portion of the fish. Unevicerated fish have been linked to outbreaks of botulism poisoning.

The product may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum spores, which can cause Botulism, a serious and potentially fatal food-bourne illness. Symptoms of botulism include blurred or double vision, general weakness, poor reflexes, difficulty in swallowing and respiratory paralysis.

South Shore Meats Recalls Fresh Ground Beef Patties And Beef Steak Products Due To Possible E. coli O157:H7 Contamination

Recall Release CLASS I RECALL
FSIS-RC-057-2009 HEALTH RISK: HIGH

Crocetti’s Oakdale Packing Co., doing business as, South Shore Meats, Inc., a Brockton, Mass., establishment, is voluntarily recalling approximately 1,039 pounds of fresh ground beef patties derived from bench trim as well as mechanically tenderized beef cuts that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

This recall was initiated after the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed a positive sample for E. coli O157:H7 which it collected during an epidemiological investigation. FSIS is continuing to work with the Massachusetts DPH, the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the investigation. CDC had determined that the product sampled is associated with the illnesses being investigated. Anyone with signs or symptoms of foodborne illness should consult a physician.

The products subject to recall include:

* 10-pound boxes containing 40, 4-ounce packages of "Beef Sirloin Patties, Manufactured by South Shore Meats."
* 7.5-pound boxes containing 12, 10-ounce packages of "Beef Teres Major Steaks Seasoned."
* Boxes of 24, 5-ounce packages of "BEEF BUTT STEAKS, (Filet Style)."
* 9-pound boxes containing 12, 12-ounce packages of "BEEF BUTT STEAKS, Center Cut, (sirloin style)."
* 9-pound boxes containing 12, 12-ounce packages of "BEEF BUTT STEAK, Center Cut, (filet style)."
* 6.75-pound boxes containing 12, 9-ounce packages of "BEEF BUTT STEAK, Center Cut, (sirloin style)."
* Boxes of 16, 10-ounce packages of "Beef Top Butt Steaks Sirloin Style."
* Boxes of 20, 8-ounce packages of "Beef Butt Steaks Club Style."
* Boxes of 26, 6-ounce packages of "Beef Top Butt Steaks Sirloin Style."
* Boxes of 12, 10-ounce packages of "BEEF BUTT STEAKS, (Filet Style)."
* 6-pound boxes containing 16, 6-ounce packages of "Beef Filet Of Sirloin, Executive Cut."
* Boxes of 12, 8-ounce packages of "BEEF BUTT STEAKS, (Filet Style)."

Each box bears the establishment number "EST. 6336" inside the USDA mark of inspection and may also bear a date code of "281." The beef products were produced on October 8, 2009, and were distributed to wholesale distributors and institutions in Massachusetts. If available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on FSIS’ Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FSIS_Recalls/ Open_Federal_Cases/index.asp

Recall Announced in Mass./R.I. E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak

New information on the cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses among Rhode Island students sickened through consumption of ground beef at a camp in Massachusetts, as reported on by the Rhode Island Department of Health:

The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) advises Rhode Islanders that the South Shore Meat packing plant in Brockton has initiated a voluntary recall on certain ground beef products based on confirmed laboratory evidence of the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in leftover ground beef samples obtained from Camp Bournedale in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The ground beef was tested by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) after more than 20 students and chaperones from Lincoln Middle School became ill.

Still no indication where else the ground beef may have gone, or what lot codes or production days might be involved.   As a result, this ground beef may still be on shelves and in freezers in consumers’ homes.

 

Raw Milk Editorial Leaves Questions Unanswered

An editorial appearing on sheboyganpress.com fails to get at the heart of important issues surrounding the commercial sale of raw milk in the U.S.  The article does take notice of some the risks associated with consuming raw milk:

 It has been linked to outbreaks of E-coli and salmonella-based illnesses, including at least 35 people in southern Wisconsin who became ill after drinking raw or unpasteurized milk in August…The FDA says the milk is inherently dangerous, and it has been linked to 45 E-coli and salmonella outbreaks from 1998 to 2005.

The editorial then notes the ongoing debate between supporters and detractors of commercial raw milk sales, particularly in Wisconsin:

The two sides are coming head to head over whether raw milk should be sold to the public. Raw milk supporters recently hired a lobbyist to try to change state law that prohibits raw milk sales. Meanwhile, the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection wants to crack down on farmers who disregard the law and sell it anyway.

The author’s proposed solution – stick a warning on it and let consumers decide- leaves  too many issues unresolved.   First of all, many of those consuming raw-milk are children.   Not only are these children not making their own individual informed decision, they are more susceptible to the tragic outcomes associated with foodborne pathogens that may be present in raw milk.   The bulk of clients represented by Marler Clark in a number of E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks linked to raw milk have been kids.   At least four of these have suffered from the life-threatening condition, HUS

In addition, a warning label may not be sufficient where raw milk supporters do their best disavow those same warning labels.  Take a peak around the web at sites espousing the consumption of raw milk.   Are they admitting significant risks, and asking the consumer to make a truly informed decision?   Or are they attempting to discredit the public health agencies that have repeatedly found a link between raw milk and illness outbreaks?