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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O157 Infections Linked to Topp’s Brand Ground Beef Patties

Several state health departments, CDC, and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) are investigating a multi-state outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections. On September 29, USDA issued a notice about a recall of 21.7 millions pounds of frozen ground beef patties.

Health officials in several states who were investigating reports of E. coli O157 illnesses found that many ill persons had consumed the same brand of frozen ground beef patties. Ground beef patties recovered from patients’ home were tested by state public health department and federal laboratories. Tests conducted by the New York State Wadsworth Center Laboratory and by a USDA-FSIS laboratory on opened and unopened packages of Topp’s brand frozen ground beef patties yielded E. coli O157 isolates with several different “DNA fingerprint” patterns.

Investigators compared the “DNA fingerprints” patterns of E. coli O157 strains found in ground beef with “DNA fingerprints” patterns of E. coli O157 strains isolated from ill persons. As of 12 PM (ET) October 2, 2007, 28 cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection have been identified with PFGE patterns that match at least one of the patterns of E. coli strains found in Topp’s brand frozen ground beef patties. Ill persons reside in 8 states [Connecticut (2), Florida (1), Indiana (1), Maine (1), New Jersey (6), New York (8), Ohio (1), and Pennsylvania (8)]. Seventeen (94%) of 18 patients with a detailed food history consumed ground beef. Three illnesses have confirmed associations with recalled products because the strain isolated from the person was also isolated from the meat in their home. The first reported illness began on July 5, 2007, and the last began on September11, 2007. Among fifteen ill persons for whom hospitalization status is known, ten (67%) patients were hospitalized. One patient developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). No deaths have been reported. Twelve (43%) patients are female. The ages of patients range from 3 to 77 years; 33% are between 15 and 24 years old (only 14% of the US population is in this age group).

Consumers who have frozen ground beef patties should determine whether they have the recalled product and discard it or return it to the place of purchase. Each recalled package bears the establishment number “Est. 9748” inside the USDA mark of inspection and has a sell-by date between “SEP 25 07” and “SEP 25 08.” More information on the recalled products can be found at
USDA/FSIS.

We have been retained by a dozen individuals sicked in the latest recall.  Please see below posts on status of lawsuits and prior recalls.  Also, here are a few interesting documents from the last time Topps had an E. coli problem – FSIS Report 1 and FSIS Report 2.