Health officials in three Western states said Friday at least 40 people have reported illnesses tied to recalled ground beef that may be tainted with salmonella. On Thursday, Fresno-based Beef Packers Inc. (a.k.a. Cargill) recalled nearly 826,000 pounds (over 400 tons) of ground beef produced from June 5-23.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service says the beef was sent to retail distribution centers in Arizona, California, Colorado and Utah, with some sold at Safeway Inc. and Sam’s Club. Friday, the department confirmed that California, Colorado and Wyoming have reported illness linked to the recalled beef. Colorado health officials said 21 people there have been sickened, and all are recovering. California officials said five people have reported feeling sick. Wyoming health officials reported that two people have fallen ill.
Officials are investigating other reported illnesses in Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota and Texas that may be linked to the same strain of salmonella, the USDA said. Because the beef was repackaged under different retail names, USDA recommends consumers check with the store where they purchased the beef to determine whether what they bought has been recalled.
Salmonella is a bacterium that causes one of the most common enteric (intestinal) infections in the United States – Salmonellosis. In some states (e.g. Georgia, Maryland), salmonellosis is the most commonly reported cause of enteric disease, and overall it is the second most common bacterial foodborne illness reported (usually slightly less frequent than Campylobacter infection).
The reported incidence of Salmonella illnesses is about 14 cases per each 100,000 persons (MMWR Weekly, 2006), amounting to approximately 30,000 confirmed cases of salmonellosis yearly in the U.S. (CDC, 2005, October 13). In 2005, just over 36,000 cases were reported from public health laboratories across the nation, representing a 12 percent decrease compared with the previous decade, but a 1.5 percent increase over 2004 (CDC, 2007).
As only about 3 percent of Salmonella cases are officially reported nationwide, and many milder cases are never diagnosed, the true incidence is undoubtedly much higher (Mead, 1999). The CDC estimates that 1.4 million cases occur annually (CDC, 2005, October 13). Approximately 600 deaths are caused by Salmonella infections in the U.S. every year, accounting for 31 percent of all food-related deaths (CDC, 2005, October 13; MMWR Weekly, 2001).