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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Safeway and Other Stores in Colorado Linked to 21 Hamburger Salmonella Newport Illnesses

Colorado State health officials, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and several other state health departments have been investigating an outbreak of infections that are resistant to several commonly used antibiotics. To date, cases of illness have been identified in 11 states. The majority of cases, 21 illnesses, have been reported in Colorado in the following counties: Arapahoe (3), Broomfield (3), Denver (3), Douglas (1), Elbert (1), Garfield (1), Jefferson (5), Mesa (1), Pueblo (1) and Weld (2). Four people have been hospitalized.

Most people became ill during late June and early July, with the most recent illness occurring July 13. Because it can take at least two weeks for cases of illness to be reported to the state health department, it is possible additional cases may be reported. This is the second large outbreak of Salmonella the department has investigated since July 1. Both outbreaks have been linked to ground beef.

The ground beef products associated with the known cases were produced on various dates ranging from June 5, 2009, through June 23, 2009, and bear the establishment number "EST. 31913" printed on the case code labels.  The ground beef products were distributed to retail distribution centers in Arizona, California, Colorado and Utah. Of Colorado’s confirmed cases, the state has epidemiologic data showing that 15 of 16 confirmed illnesses (out of a total of 21 confirmed cases) purchased their ground beef product at Safeway Stores. Point of purchase information is not available on the other Colorado cases. At this time, it is not known whether the product was distributed to other stores.

Because these products were repackaged into consumer-sized packages and sold under different retail brand names, consumers should check with their local retailer to determine whether they may have purchased any of the products subject to recall.

As part of its investigation into an outbreak of Salmonella Newport associated with ground beef products, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment notified the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service of the situation. Epidemiologic and traceback investigations determined there is an association between the fresh ground beef products and illnesses reported in Colorado.

The illnesses also were linked through the epidemiologic investigation by their uncommon pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern found in PulseNet, a national network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.