The Massachusetts camp where food made Rhode Island middle school children ill has said that officials linked the illnesses to hamburger, but no recall has yet been issued for the tainted meat. Foodborne illness expert and attorney Bill Marler today called upon the USDA and Massachusetts Department of Agriculture to share their findings with consumers and ensure that all the contaminated meat is removed from the food supply.
"As the parents of these sick children know, E. coli O157:H7 is a very dangerous pathogen," said Marler. Unfortunately, it is not surprising that hamburger meat is the vehicle. What is surprising is that public health officials have not taken the crucial next step of issuing a recall so that other businesses or consumers who may have purchased this meat are aware of the severe health hazard."
Students from Lincoln Middle School in Rhode Island attended Camp Bournedale in nearby Plymouth, MA from October 13-16. Fifteen of the sixth-grade students have reported diarrheal illness. Two of the ill were confirmed to have contracted E. coli O157:H7 and have been hospitalized.
"In 2006, it seemed that the meat industry had gotten a handle on E. coli," continued Marler. "But with 41 million pounds recalled since then-and over a half-million pounds just this year-that is clearly not the case."
Many benign strains of E. coli (Escherichia coli) live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other mammals. Infection with one of the toxic strains, most notably E. coli O157:H7,can cause serious illness, organ failure, and even death. E. coli is often contracted by consuming food or beverage that has been contaminated by animal (especially cattle) manure. The majority of foodborne E. coli outbreaks has been traced to ground beef; however leafy vegetables, sprouts, unpasteurized dairy or juice products or even water can become tainted with the pathogen.