Let’s learn from history.

In January 2013, local, state, and federal public health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium linked to consumption of ground beef produced by defendants Jouni Halal and Gab Halal.  Public health investigators used DNA “fingerprints” of Salmonella bacteria obtained through diagnostic testing with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to identify patients considered to be part of the outbreak.  Collaborative investigative efforts indicated that ground beef produced by Jouni Meats, Inc. and Gab Halal Foods were the likely source of the outbreak.  See http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/typhimurium-01-13/.  As set forth previously, the beef from which Gab Halal and Jouni Halal produced the ground beef was manufactured and distributed by AFG, Dakota Premium, and Saad Wholesale Meats.

A total of 22 persons infected with the outbreak strain were reported from six states:  Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Among persons for whom information was available, illness onset dates ranged from December 9, 2012 to February 20, 2013.  Ill persons ranged in age from 2 years to 87 years. Among 14 persons with available information, seven ill persons were hospitalized.  No deaths were reported.

Initial investigations focused on seven ill persons in Michigan (6) and Arizona (1) who reported eating at the same restaurant before their illness began.  This restaurant was Ike’s, located in Sterling Heights, Michigan.  The Arizona resident had traveled to Michigan, where he or she ate at Ike’s.  These seven individuals included Mary Ann Thomas and Sara Joseph.  By the end of the investigation, additional illnesses linked to the consumption of kibbeh at Ike’s were discovered, bringing the total number of people sickened in the potion of this outbreak linked to Ike’s restaurant to 12.  All seven of the initial ill persons reported eating raw ground beef kibbeh (a dish typically made of finely ground red meat, usually lamb, minced onions, and bulgur wheat) at this restaurant before becoming ill.  The other cases in the outbreak—i.e., those ill individuals not exposed to the beef at Ike’s—were exposed to the contaminated AFG/Dakota Premium beef at other retail locations nationally.

On January 24, 2013 Jouni Meats, Inc. recalled approximately 500 pounds of ground beef products.[1]  In the USDA recall news release announcing this recall, USDA stated that the investigation identified that raw ground beef was consumed at a restaurant. The products subject to recall are various size packages of ground beef. These products were produced by defendants AFG and Dakota Premium between December 4, 2012 and December 9, 2012, and were distributed to Ike’s restaurant, and also sold directly to consumers at Jouni Meats, Inc.  On January 25, 2013 Gab Halal Foods recalled approximately 550 pounds of ground beef products.[2]  The products subject to recall are various size packages of ground beef wrapped in clear plastic. These products were produced by defendants AFG and Dakota Premium between December 4, 2012, and December 10, 2012, and also distributed to Ike’s restaurant, and sold directly to consumers at Gab Halal Foods.

On March 15, 2013 the CDC issued a final notice declaring the outbreak to be over.[3]  The state of Michigan submitted its final report on the outbreak to the CDC in the form of a “National Outbreak Reporting System” form.  This NORS form sets forth the investigative conclusions for the portion of this multi-state outbreak that occurred at Ike’s restaurant in Michigan.  At the top of page 1 of the NORS Form, it is stated that the outbreak was linked to “Ike’s kibbeh nayeh.”  Page 2 of the form sets forth a section titled “Trace back,” where Jouni Halal and Gab Halal are identified as the “meat retailer/supplier” to Ike’s restaurant.  On the same page, in the section titled “Remarks,” Michigan Department of Agriculture states as follows:

Regarding traceback, additional traceback information was gathered, identifying the secondary and tertiary suppliers to the 2 firms [Gab Halal and Jouni Halal] involved in the recall.  The information was shared with USDA FSIS investigators for further traceback to the slaughter/processor [AFG and Dakota Premium].  This report includes only those cases in cluster 1212MIJPX-1 that were linked to the Ike’s restaurant cluster.

Finally, and quite notably with regard to the identification of the subject ground beef as the source of this outbreak, during random sampling by USDA at a beef slaughter/processing plant in Minnesota, a sample tested positive for Salmonella Typhimurium matching the outbreak strain by DNA testing.  USDA does not disclose the name of the beef plants where positive tests occur, but because traceback of the beef that was epidemiologically associated with the Ike’s cluster and this outbreak generally lead back to AFG/Dakota Premium, which is located in Minnesota, it is conclusive that the USDA sample was from AFG/Dakota Premium.