"ground beef outbreak" "ground beef recall"After a decade making great progress in the control of E. coli and other bad bugs in its products, the beef industry has seen its progress eroded over the last several years.  Beef companies recalled over twenty-nine million pounds of meat in 2007. 2008 saw at least sixteen recalls of beef products, totaling at least 2,361,295 pounds of meat. And in 2009, beef companies recalled almost 2 million pounds of meat due to various contamination and processing problems.  

It is almost summer, even in Seattle, and foodpoisoning illnesses do not generally slow down during summer months–particularly E. coli O157:H7 infections from ground beef.  "The theory is that animals are carrying higher levels of E. coli during the summer months, and sometimes they may overwhelm the systems in place to control pathogen contamination in (processing) plants," said James Marsden, a professor of food safety and security at Kansas State University, in a February 2010 USA Today article by Elizabeth Weise.  What will summer 2010 bring?

Escherichia coli (E. coli) are members of a large group of bacterial germs that inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and other warm-blooded animals (mammals, birds). Newborns have a sterile alimentary tract, which within two days becomes colonized with E. coli.  Between 5 and 10% of E. coli infections ultimately cause hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

Post-diarrheal hemolytic uremic syndrome (D+HUS) is a severe, life-threatening complication that occurs in about 10 percent of those infected with E. coli O157:H7 or other Shiga toxin- (Stx-) producing E. coli. D+HUS was first described in 1955, but was not known to be secondary to E. coli infections until 1982. It is now recognized as the most common cause of acute kidney failure in infants and young children. Adolescents and adults are also susceptible, as are the elderly, who often succumb to the disease.