FSIS announced late last night that Wolverine Packing Company recalled approximately 1.8 million pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.  These products were shipped to distributors for restaurant use in Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio.  FSIS was notified of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses on May 12, 2014. Working in conjunction with public health partners from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FSIS determined that there is a link between the ground beef products from Wolverine Packing Company and this illness cluster. Based on epidemiological and traceback investigations, 11 case-patients have been identified in 4 states with illness onset dates ranging from April 22, 2014 to May 2, 2014.

It has been six years since there has been a ground beef recall of this size or greater associated with illnesses.  Here is a bit(e) of history:

In late June of 2008, public health officials in Michigan and Ohio began investigating several cases of E. coli O157:H7.  An epidemiological investigation by officials at the Michigan and Ohio departments of agriculture determined that the source of the E. coli outbreak was ground beef purchased at Kroger stores.  Kroger stores recalled an undetermined amount of ground beef, which was ultimately linked to 42 illnesses of E. coli O157:H7— 21 in Michigan and 20 in Ohio. In its recall announcement, Kroger identified stores that had sold the contaminated meat, including Fred Meyer, QFC, Kroger, Fry’s, Ralph’s, Smith’s, Baker’s, King Soopers, City Market, Hilander, Owen’s, Pay Less, Scott’s, Dillons, and Gerbes.  Nebraska Beef also issued a massive recall of ground beef, which was eventually expanded to include a total of 5.3 million pounds of meat intended for use in ground beef production.  On July 18, 2008 the CDC announced that 49 confirmed E. coli O157:H7 cases had been linked both epidemiologically and by molecular fingerprinting to the consumption of ground beef products produced with Nebraska Beef meat.  States with confirmed cases included Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Utah. Twenty-seven people were hospitalized, and one patient was known to have developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). No deaths were reported. Later that year, in August of 2008, Nebraska Beef recalled an additional 1.2 million pounds of meat for potential E. coli contamination after a cluster of Boston illnesses was traced to Whole Foods, whose processor, Coleman Natural Meats, purchased the meat from Nebraska Beef.  As many as 30 E. coli cases were reported in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Canada in association with the August recall. On August 14, Nebraska Beef expanded its recall to include 160,000 pounds of meat, bringing the total meat recalled in August to 1.36 million pounds.

On October 6, 2007, Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation announced that it was recalling approximately 845,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties for possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination. The recall was initiated after three people in Minnesota tested positive for E. coli and a joint investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Agriculture identified the Cargill hamburger patties as the source of the illnesses.   The Cargill products were sold at retail establishments and to restaurants and other institutions. Sam’s Club announced that it was pulling the potentially E. coli-contaminated ground beef patties produced by Cargill from its store shelves nationwide on October 5th.  The most grievously sickened victim was Stephanie Smith, who developed HUS and spent months in a medically-induced coma.  The former dance instructor was paralyzed from the waist down, and both her kidney function and cognitive abilities were impaired.  Michael Moss of the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for the article he wrote about Stephanie Smith and the background of the beef that went into the burger that made her sick.

In September 2007 Topps Meat Company expanded a recall of frozen hamburgers to 21.7 million pounds of patties because it was contaminated with a deadly type of E. coli, making it the second-largest ground beef recall in U.S. history. The largest ground beef recall in U.S. history was the 1997 Hudson Foods Company recall of 25 million pounds of ground beef. The third largest was the ConAgra Foods recall of 2002, which covered 19.7 million pounds of ground beef. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had identified 40 cases of E. coli in eight states. While this is the first recall in Topps’ 65-year history, it is not the first time the company has had problems with E. coli. In 2005, a 9-year-old girl in Glenmont, N.Y., went into kidney failure after being infected with bacteria linked to a Topps beef patty. Ill persons reside in 8 states – Connecticut (2), Florida (1), Indiana (1), Maine (1), New Jersey (9), New York (13), Ohio (1), and Pennsylvania (12).

In June 2007 United Food Group, LLC, expanded its June 3 and 6 recalls to include a total of approximately 5.7 million pounds of both fresh and frozen ground beef products produced between April 6 and April 20 (the largest recall since 2002) because it was contaminated with E. coli. An investigation carried out by the California Department of Health Services and the Colorado Department of Health, in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, preceded the recall of June 3. Illnesses occurred in Arizona (6), California (3), Colorado (2), Idaho (1), Utah (1) and Wyoming (1). Illness onset dates ranged between April 25 and May 18.

Prior to the 2007 – 2008 bump, it was five years since another large one:

On June 30, 2002, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced the recall of 354,200 pounds of ground beef manufactured at the ConAgra Beef Company plant in Greeley, Colorado.  The contaminated ground beef had been produced at the plant on May 31, thirty days prior to the recall, and was distributed nationally to retailers and institutions.  On July 12, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) disclosed that 17 Colorado residents had been infected with E. coli O157:H7.  Several other cases were subsequently reported in neighboring states.  Three days later, on July 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the strain of E. coli O157:H7 that had infected the 17 sickened individuals was genetically indistinguishable from the strain isolated from the recalled ConAgra beef.  On July 19, 2002, FSIS expanded the ConAgra ground beef recall to 18.6 million pounds of ground beef.  In the weeks that followed the nationwide recall, more than 45 people in 23 states reported illnesses linked to the contaminated ground beef.

On December 4, 2000, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that American Foods Group (AFG) was recalling 1.1 million pounds of ground beef for potential E. coli contamination. The recalled meat was manufactured at AFG’s Wisconsin meat plants, and supplied to stores throughout the Midwest and Southeast United States. The recall was initiated after a preliminary investigation by both MDOH and FSIS indicated that ground beef produced at the plant in early November 2000 was likely contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The Wisconsin Department of Public Health linked three reports of Wisconsin E. coli O157:H7 cases to those reported in Minnesota.