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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Off to see Michael Pollan at WSU, but E. coli Outbreaks not far from mind

Sitting at the Seattle Airport waiting for my flight to Pullman (no, that is not the plane), gave me a little time to work on the 2009 JBS meat recall and E. coli outbreak.

In early April 2009, health officials from several states began investigating reports of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses associated with the consumption of ground beef products manufactured by the JBS Swift company. On June 24, 2009, JBS Swift announced a voluntary recall of approximately 41,280 pounds of beef products due to potential contamination with E. coli O157:H7. Most of the products associated with the June 24 recall bore the establishment number "Est. 969" and had identifying package dates of "042109" or "042209."

By June 28, the recall was expanded to include 380,000 pounds of beef primal products. The products implicated in the expanded recall were produced on April 21, 2009, and were distributed nationally and internationally. These items bore the establishment number "EST. 969," an identifying package date of "042109," and a time stamp ranging from "0618" to "1130." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some of the products were likely cut again or made into ground beef at retail and then re-packaged. Thus, ground beef packages purchased by consumers may not have exhibited identifying information.

After the recall announcements, the multi-state investigation into the reported E. coli O157:H7 illnesses continued. Samples from unopened packages of ground beef recovered from the house of one of the patients were tested by the Michigan Public Health Laboratory. The tests yielded an E. coli O157:H7 isolate that was an identical PFGE match to the outbreak strain.

By early July 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had been notified of twenty three persons from nine states that were infected with the same PFGE-confirmed strain of E. coli O157:H7 implicated in the JBS Swift recall. The number of ill persons identified in each state was as follows: California (4), Maine (1), Michigan (6), Minnesota (1), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (2), New Mexico (1), New York (1) and Wisconsin (6).

Among the seventeen ill persons for whom hospitalization status is known, twelve (70%) were hospitalized. Two of the hospitalized patients developed HUS. Fourteen of the patients (64%) were male and 59% were less than nineteen years old, with ages ranging from 2 to 74 years. JBS Swift and FSIS released a list of stores that had received recalled product on July 2, 2009. Potentially E. coli-contaminated JBS Swift meat products were distributed to the following retail outlets:

* BJ’s Wholesale Clubs
* Bloom and Food Lion Stores
* Costco
* Food 4 Less
* Fry’s Food and Drug Stores
* Hannaford Bros. Co.
* Kroger
* Price Chopper
* Roundy’s Supermarkets
* Smith’s Food and Drug Stores
* Stop & Shop
* WinCo Foods

I represent three of the Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome cases, one who ate hamburger and two that ate steak – all kids.