On October 26, South Shore Meats in Brockton recalled more than 1,000 pounds of hamburger and steak after 20 Rhode Island students and adults became sick after eating E. coli O157:H7 contaminated meat at Camp Bournedale in Plymouth. A sixth-grade class from Lincoln, Rhode Island and adult chaperones spent several days at an environmental education program at Camp Bournedale in mid-October. Two of the students were hospitalized but were released on October 23.
Then on October 31, Fairbank Farms recalled almost 546,000 pounds of ground beef because E. coli O157:H7 contaminated meat has caused illness and one death. USDA has said that Fairbank Farms is linked to cases of E. coli-related illness in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts. At least on child remains hospitalized in Massachusetts. The USDA says the ground beef was sold at numerous retail stores, including B.J.’s Wholesale, Giant, Lancaster, Price Chopper, Shaw’s, Trader Joe’s and Wild Harvest. In addition, ground beef packaged under the Fairbank Farms name was distributed to stores in Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and was likely repackaged for sale.
In nearly 17 years doing E. coli cases, I do not recall two separate outbreaks and recalls occurring in the same geographical area in the same time frame. It will be interesting to see during litigation (we represent children linked to the Camp and to illnesses in Massachusetts) and discovery, if Fairbanks supplied meat to South Shore. It will also be interesting to see if any of all of these cases are linked genetically via PFGE. Bottom line is that people getting sick and dying are still how we do outbreak investigations and issue recalls. It will be certain that we will be looking hard at finished hamburger testing for E. coli from both plants.