A four-state outbreak of E. coli O26 with 18 illnesses including six hospitalizations and one death was reported late Thursday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued a Food Safety Alert about the incident. CDC’s alert followed by several hours the announcement by Cargill Meat Solutions of a recall of beef produced in Colorado that was likely contaminated with E. coli O26.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said the Cargill recall was associated with an epidemiological investigation into illnesses with onset dates ranging from July 5 to July 25. CDC said that outbreak “appears to be over.” One death in Florida is associated with the outbreak. Also, CDC reported one person developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which results in kidney failure.
CDC also said 15 of the 18 illnesses involved people in Florida. Colorado, Massachusetts and Tennessee each reported one case.
Cargill early Thursday recalled approximately 132,606 pounds, or 66.3 tons, of ground beef produced at its Fort Morgan, CO, facility. Cargill shipped the recalled beef to retailers nationwide. Made from the chuck portion of the carcass, the recalled beef may be contaminated with Escherichia coli O26, according to FSIS.
Public health officials are concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.
FSIS learned of the outbreak investigation of the E. coli O26 illnesses on Aug. 16. FSIS, the federal CDC, and state public health and agriculture partners determined that raw ground beef was the probable source of the illnesses.
Investigators determined that Cargill supplied ground beef that was recalled on Aug. 30 by Florida’s Publix Super Markets Inc. for E. coli O26-contamination. Traceback showed that patients had consumed ground beef purchased at various retail stores that were supplied by Cargill Meat Solutions. The outbreak was centered on Florida.
The ground beef items listed in Cargill’s Sept. 20 recall and associated with the illnesses were produced and packaged on June 21, 2018. The following products are subject to recall:
- 3-lb. chubs of “OUR CERTIFIED 73/27 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” with a USE OR FREEZE BY JUL/11/18 and case code 00228749057646.
- 3-lb. chubs of “OUR CERTIFIED 73/27 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” with a USE OR FREEZE BY JUL/11/18 and case code 00228749002653.
- 10-lb. chubs of “EXCEL 73/27 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 00228749089098.
- 10-lb. chubs of “EXCEL 73/27 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 90028749002751.
- 10-lb. chubs of “EXCEL 81/19 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 90028749003536.
- 10-lb. chubs of “EXCEL GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 00228749003568.
- 10-lb. chubs of “EXCEL CHUCK GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 90028749402773.
- 20-lb. chubs of “EXCEL 81/19 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF COMBO” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 90028749073935.
- 10-lb. chubs of “Sterling Silver CHUCK GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 00228749702416.
- 10-lb. chubs of “CERTIFIED ANGUS BEEF CHUCK GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 90028749802405.
- 10-lb. chubs of “CERTIFIED ANGUS BEEF CHUCK GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 with case code 00228749802413.
- 10-lb. chubs of “Fire River Farms CLASSIC GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a USE/FREEZE BY: 07/11/2018 with case code 90734730297241.
The recalled products bear establishment number “EST. 86R” inside the USDA mark of inspection. Cargill shipped the products to retail locations nationwide.
E. coli O26, like the more common E. coli O157:H7, is a serovar of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). People usually become sick for a few days after exposure to the organism.
Most people infected with STEC O26 develop diarrhea that is often bloody, and vomiting. Some illnesses last longer and can be more severe. Infection is usually diagnosed by testing patients’ stool samples. Vigorous rehydration and other supportive care is the usual treatment; antibiotic treatment is generally not recommended.
Many people recover within a week, but some develop a more severe infection. Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, is common with STEC O26 infection. HUS can occur in people of any age but is most common in children younger than 5 years old, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. It is marked by easy bruising, pallor and decreased urine output. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.
FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website.