August 2006

I expect soon to receive the below email commenting on the recent tragic death and thirty illnesses tied E. coli contaminated hamburger served at a Minnesota church dinner:

“It is not the failure of the Meat Industry in not keeping cattle feces out of hamburger that sickened the people. It is the fault of the person who handled and cooked the hamburger that was fed at the church dinner.”

At first I will calmly try to respond to the person that the Meat Industry that makes a profit off of selling “USDA Inspected Meat” can not blame the consumer if the product actually contains a pathogen that can severely sicken or kill. I will then point out the fact that this deadly form of E. coli, E. coli O157:H7, is not supposed to be in hamburger in the first place – the USDA has a “zero tolerance” policy for this nasty bug. And I will argue that there is no other product in the United States manufacturers would expect consumers to “fix” before they use it.
The reply to my calm response will be something to the effect of, “the consumer should know that meat may contain bacteria and they are told to cook it.”


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Marler Clark has seen an increase in business recently, and in light of the current E. coli outbreak in Minnesota, I think that increase might be courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture. This is the agency that is responsible for, among other things, testing ground beef to ensure that the consuming public has a product free from E. coli O157:H7. What the agency has done, however, is slowly but surely erode the very testing mechanisms and requirements that are our protection against this lethal foodborne bacterium.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDOH), which was instrumental in detecting last fall’s large-scale outbreak involving Dole lettuce, recently reported that at least seventeen Longville-area people have been confirmed to be suffering from E. coli infections in the last six weeks. The illnesses were caused by E. coli-contaminated ground beef. One woman died as a result, and the MDOH suspects that the number of victims is likely more than thirty. Additionally, meat companies from Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee, and Virginia have all recalled E. coli-contaminated ground beef in the last month. To its credit, USDA testing was responsible for three of these recalls.
But with a bug as dangerous as E. coli O157:H7, the USDA cannot be satisfied with the occasional recall. It has both the technology and capability to do much more to prevent E. coli from entering our meat supply.


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Lois Collins of the Deseret Morning News has reported more on the Wendy’s outbreak:

Wendy’s restaurant chain is being sued by a Weber County family after the Weber-Morgan Health Department identified a North Ogden Wendy’s as the probable link in four confirmed E. coli infections in June.
Seattle law firm Marler Clark and Salt

BE VIGILANT ON E. COLI SAYS MUM
A MOTHER whose toddler daughter almost died after contracting the E.coli bug has issued a warning for parents to be vigilant.
The 29-year-old woman and her 18-month-old daughter were both admitted to South Tyneside District Hospital in April with the 0157 strain of the infection.
The youngster’s condition worsened and she was diagnosed with Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome, which caused her whole body to shut down and her kidneys to fail.


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GREAT ARTICLE – NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DID A STORY ON THE JACK IN THE BOX CASE SEVERAL YEARS AGO.
Sean Markey
for National Geographic News
August 7, 2006
The bacteria that cause a common food-borne illness show low drug resistance in Australia, unlike similar strains from the United States and Europe, a study has found.
Scientists behind the finding say Australia’s de facto ban on certain antibiotics in poultry and other livestock helps explain why.


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The below is the Press Release directly from the Weber-Morgan Health Department. Although the vector of the illnesses seems to be lettuce, it is most likely that the cause was not directly lettuce, but cross-contamination between hamburger and lettuce – See earlier post Another Wendy’s E. coli Outbreak?
PRESS CONFERENCE RELEASE
Weber-Morgan Health Department (Utah)
AUGUST 7, 2006
Infectious Agent: E. coli O121:H19
The Weber-Morgan Health Department confirms that four people have contracted an E.coli O121:H19 infection with three of these people developing the more severe case of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Based upon the findings of our investigation, we have concluded that the probable source of the contamination was iceberg lettuce prepared at the Wendy’s Restaurant at 2500 N. 400 E. in North Ogden.


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It is interesting that of the four confirmed cases, three developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), a severe, life-threatening complication of an E. coli O157:H7 bacterial infection. Although most people recover from an E. coli O157:H7 infection, about 5-10% of infected individuals goes on to develop HUS. If 5-10% develop HUS, one would think that the outbreak involving Wendy’s would have some fifty to seventy-five sick people rather than just four.
An article by Brandy A. Lee of the Desert Morning News is below:

E. COLI INFECTED 4 AT MEET IN NORTHERN UTAH

Restaurant lettuce the apparent culprit at June gathering?
The Weber-Morgan Health Department confirmed Monday four people were infected with E. coli bacteria in June following a conference held at Orion Junior High in Harrisville.
Three of those people developed a more severe case of hemolytic uremic syndrome, the health department said.


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