Carol M. Ostrom of the Seattle Times reported today on the growing problem of E. coli in hamburger in the United States.  Over the last several months there have been close to a dozen recalls and nearly 7,000,000 pounds of meat recalled.  We have a problem – again.  Good thing I am about to get on the plane here in Melbourne, Australia to head back.  As Ms. Ostrom reported:

Six people in Washington have been sickened by E. coli contamination in ground beef made by Oregon-based Interstate Meats, leading to a federal consumer alert for the products.

The illnesses occurred in late July and the first week of August, the state health department said.

Two other cases connected to the company’s products have been reported in Oregon.

The Washington cases included one child and five adults in King, Island and Clallam counties, the health department said. Two were hospitalized and have since recovered.

The alert was issued by the U.S. Food Safety Inspection Service for products sold under the brand name “Northwest Finest.” The products subject to this public health alert include:

• 16-ounce packages of “Northwest Finest 7% FAT, NATURAL GROUND BEEF.” The label bears a UPC code of 752907 600127.

• 16-ounce packages of “Northwest Finest 10% FAT, Organic GROUND BEEF.” No UPC code is available.

Each package also bears the establishment number “Est. 965” inside the U.S. Department of Agriculture mark of inspection, and sell-by dates between Aug. 1 and Aug. 11.

The ground-beef products were produced on various dates between July 19 and July 30 and distributed in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

The affected products were available for sale at Safeway, QFC and Fred Meyer stores in Washington. But the ground beef may have been available at other outlets, so all consumers are advised to check their freezers for these products. Any frozen ground beef should be checked and discarded as necessary.

Here is a partial list of outbreaks that have occurred in the last few months:

*  Abbott’s Meat Inc., a Flint, Mich., establishment, is voluntarily recalling approximately 26,669 pounds of ground beef products because they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

*  Ninteen people have recently been sickenrd with E. coli O157:H7 linked to eating ate a Hunstville, Alabama restaurant.

* At least thirteen people have been confirmed ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections after eating ground beef produced by United Food Group sold in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and Montana. Over 5,700,000 pound of meat have been recalled.

* Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc. recalled 40,440 pounds of ground beef products due to possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7. No illnesses yet reported.

* Seven Minnesotans were confirmed as part of the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that prompted PM Beef Holdings to recall 117,500 pounds of beef trim products that was ground and sold at Lunds and Byerly’s stores.

* Twenty-seven people have been confirmed ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections in Fresno County. The Fresno County Department of Community Health inspected the “Meat Market” in Northwest Fresno, the source of the outbreak.

* At least two people were confirmed ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections in Michigan after eating ground beef produced by Davis Creek Meats and Seafood of Kalamazoo, Michigan. The E. coli outbreak prompted Davis Creek Meats and Seafood to recall approximately 129,000 pounds of beef products that were distributed in Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

* Following reports of three Napa Valley children who became sick from hamburger patties sold at a St. Helena Little League snack shack, 100,000 pounds of hamburger (that was a year old) was recalled.

* Several people were confirmed ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections in Pennsylvania after eating E. coli-contaminated meat products at Hoss’s Family Steak and Sea Restaurants, a Pennsylvania-based restaurant chain that purchased its meat from HFX, Inc., of South Claysburg, Pennsylvania. As a result of the outbreak, HFX recalled approximately 4,900 pounds of meat products.