The sad thing about doing this kind of work for over 30 years is that my memory still functions and I recall too much.

On New Years Eve Day, FSIS push out the following recall notice:

Valley Meats, LLC, a Coal Valley, Ill. establishment, is recalling approximately 6,768 pounds of raw ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 5712” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to distributor locations in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan for further distribution to restaurants and other institutional users.                                

The problem was discovered when the establishment notified FSIS that samples of ground beef products submitted to a third-party laboratory for microbiological analysis tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider. E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps 2–8 days (3–4 days, on average) after exposure the organism. While most people recover within a week, some develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children under 5-years old and older adults. It is marked by easy bruising, pallor, and decreased urine output. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.

And here is where I wish I could forget a few things.

On April 11, 2009, John Strike, a veteran and grandfather, became ill with an E. coli O157:H7 infection three days after eating a cheeseburger at the VFW post in North Olmsted, Ohio. He was admitted to the hospital, where tests revealed a severe infection and lower intestinal bleeding, and eventually kidney failure. John was in the hospital for almost a month before he was well enough to be released to a rehabilitation facility.

While John’s battle with E. coli was coming to a close, albeit leaving severe health repercussions in its wake, his granddaughter Abby’s was just beginning. It was a battle the 7-year-old girl would eventually lose.

Abby Fenstermaker was admitted to the hospital on May 11, 2009 after ongoing diarrhea left her severely dehydrated and 2 pounds lighter than her usual weight. Her body hurt so badly that she sometimes cried out in pain. Urine analysis determined that Abby had developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening complication of E. coli infection. Abby’s kidneys began to shut down. A chest x-ray revealed fluid building up around her lungs. She was eventually put on oxygen to facilitate breathing. The next day found Abby minimally responsive, and a brain scan revealed that she had likely suffered a massive stroke. She then slipped into a coma. Her condition declined further over the next two days until doctors finally proclaimed her brain-dead. On May 17, Abby’s parents requested that she be removed from life support, and, along with family and friends, said goodbye to their only daughter.

Marler Clark represented Abby’s parents and her grandfather in claims against Valley Meats, the company that produced the E. coli-contaminated hamburger that sickened John, whose infection then spread to his granddaughter.  Their claims were resolved in 2010.

Several state health departments reported illnesses associated with Valley Meats’ ground beef products in the middle of May, 2009. The products were distributed nationwide both as hamburger patties and un-formed ground beef.  The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced a recall of 95,898 pounds of Valley Meats’ ground beef on May 21, 2009, four days after Abby Fenstermaker’s death.