I had just finished my part of the panel presentation entitled, “Why is food still making us sick in the 21st century,” when I was checking my Twitter feed and this popped up:
I’m a fan of @bmarler and his efforts to make food safer, but he is wrong that 1983 McDonald’s outbreak wasn’t covered. #ahcj13
I had just made the point that there had been no coverage of a 1983 New England Journal of Medicine article that I cited below:
My point was that had McDonalds not had the cover of “Restaurant A,” perhaps more people would have known about the link between E. coli O157:H7 and hamburger. And, perhaps the government and beef and fast food industries would have reacted and the 1993 Jack in the Box outbreak never would have happened. However, as Doug Levy bluntly “twittered” out, the story was out on March 23, 1983, when Daniel Q. Haney of the AP wrote “Fast Food Illness Traced To Rare Bacteria,” and I had missed it. Apparently, so it appears did everyone else. Or, worse yet, it was simply ignored. Reading the article 30 years later make me wonder how often we miss the important things:
A mysterious intestinal ailment that first struck diners at a fast-food chain is a new-found disease caused by a rare bacteria, and it has spread across the United States, researchers say.
The first major outbreak appeared last year among 47 people who ate at McDonald’s restaurants in Michigan and Oregon.
A report on their inquiry into the disease, directed by Dr. Lee W. Riley, was published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.
From the patients’ stool samples, doctors isolated a very rare form of bacteria called E. coli O157:H7. Then they found the same bacteria in a frozen hamburger patty stored at a processing plant. The meat had been kept from a batch that was shipped to the Michigan restaurants.
Steve Leroy, a McDonald’s spokesman, declined to comment on the federal report.
“It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen,” Riley said. “If it’s like any other food-borne illness, if the original source is not immediately eliminated, then it’s possible that it will stay in the food cycle for a long time to come.”
That it has – 30 years later.