The Michigan Departments of Community Health (MDCH) and Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) are issuing a public health alert regarding E. coli O157 gastrointestinal illnesses linked to the consumption of ground beef from McNees Meats and Wholesale LLC, a meat-processing and retail establishment in North Branch, Mich.
A total of five confirmed Shiga-toxin producing E. coli cases and four probable cases have been reported in Lapeer, Genesee, Isabella, and Sanilac counties. Illness onset dates range from July 18-30. Those affected range in age from 15-88.
Cases have reported consuming ground beef either at local restaurants supplied by McNees or by purchasing beef directly from the company. MDCH and MDARD are working with local health departments and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on this ongoing outbreak investigation to determine how widely these products are distributed.
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Tuesday night that McNees Meats and Wholesale LLC is recalling approximately 360 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157. As a result of an epidemiologic investigation, FSIS determined there is a link between the recalled ground beef products and the illnesses in Michigan. FSIS will be updating information about the recall at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/Recall_062_2011_Release/index.asp.
“It is concerning that two-thirds of the confirmed and probable cases in this outbreak had to be hospitalized,” said Dr. Dean Sienko, Interim Medical Director for MDCH. “People who shop at McNees Meats are advised not to eat ground beef they have purchased there and to throw out any McNees ground beef that may be in their refrigerators or freezers.”
MDARD advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume ground beef that has been cooked to a temperature of 160° F. The only way to confirm ground beef is cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature.
A gastrointestinal infection caused by E. coli O157 can cause diarrhea (often bloody) and abdominal cramps three to four days after exposure (incubation range 2-10 days). Most people get better within five to seven days, but the elderly, infants, and those with weak immune systems are more likely to develop severe or even life-threatening illness, such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Persons who are ill with these symptoms and have consumed ground beef recently should consult with their medical provider and ask about being tested for an E. coli infection.