On June 9, 2005 FSIS issued Recall Notification Report 026-2005, announcing the recall of approximately 63,580 pounds of frozen ground beef patties and meatballs manufactured by Murry’s Inc., a Lebanon, Pennsylvania company. See Recall Notification Report 026-2005, Exhibit No. 1. The recall was deemed a Class I recall and was initiated after the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) Public Health Laboratory (PHL) had tested meat obtained from an intact box of Murry’s 100% Pure All Beef Jumbo Beef Patties and found it to be contaminated with Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli O157:H7).
Laboratory testing of Murry’s meat was conducted in response to a report of E. coli O157:H7 in a 51-year-old Burlington County woman who reported eating Murry’s meat several days before onset of symptoms. Ruth Ann Fisher and her boyfriend, Jason, had purchased boxes of Murry’s Jumbo Beef Patties from the McGuire Air Force Base commissary in February 2005. On April 6, 2005 the couple cooked three patties from one box. Two days later Ms. Fisher experienced onset of diarrhea. Eventually she was hospitalized for six days and was laboratory confirmed to be infected with E. coli O157:H7.
After Ms. Fisher was discharged from the hospital, she remembered she still had the two boxes of Murry’s Jumbo Beef Patties in her freezer. One box contained three patties not eaten at the April 6th meal, the other box was unopened. On May 20, 2005 the Burlington County Health Department (BCHD) was notified that these boxes were available for laboratory testing. On May 24 BCHD employee, Gordon McConville, received the boxes of beef. The next day he delivered them to the NJDHSS PHL for analysis. See New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Request for Food Sample Analysis, Exhibit No. 2.
Test results were reported on June 8, 2005. See Public Health and Environmental Laboratories reports, Exhibit No. 3. E. coli O157:H7 was found in beef patties contained in the opened box (Specimen identification number 25FP1), as well as in beef patties taken from the unopened box (Specimen identification number 25FP2). On June 9 Maria Orsini Lidicker, molecular microbiologist at the NJDHSS PHL sent an email to Michele T. Malavet, epidemiologist at NJDHSS, informing her that the strain of E. coli O157:H7 found in beef patties from the opened box, and the beef patties from the unopened box were indistinguishable by Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis. Furthermore, the strain found in the beef patties was indistinguishable from the strain that caused the E. coli O157:H7 infection in Ruth Ann Fisher.
These findings prompted the USDA to suggest a national recall of a variety of Murry’s Inc. meat products. See Email message from Maria Orsini Lidicker to Michelle T. Malavet dated June 9, 2005, Exhibit No. 4. The PFGE patterns were submitted to PulseNet, a national database maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The strain was deemed to be relatively rare, having been identified in only seven E. coli O157:H7 patients in the previous four years. Two of the seven cases were residents of Burlington County, New Jersey, and both reported shopping at the same commissary as Ms. Fisher.