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Utah Hit in E. coli Outbreak

Jul 21, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

According to a recent Associated Press report, the ongoing multi-state E. coli outbreak that has been traced back to recalled beef, now has at least one case in Utah.  AP also reports that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say the newly reported Utah case is just one of 49 lab-confirmed cases of E. coli that has been linked to the current outbreak that began on May 27.  The outbreak has sickened 41 in Michigan and Ohio.  According to Utah Department of Health spokeswoman Charla Haley, the individual who fell in Utah developed symptoms in June, was hospitalized, and does not recall if he/she had eaten recalled beef.  The expanded recall now includes Smith's stores in Utah.

In response to the CDC citing a Colquitt County, Georgia case as part of the multi-state E. coli 0157 outbreak linked to beef, Southwest Georgia Public Health District Health Director Jacqueline Grant said, “This is not a new case.  What is new is that the CDC has now determined that it fit their case definition for the outbreak that began in Michigan and Ohio.”  The CDC recently included New York, Kentucky, and Indiana in the states hit by this latest E. coli outbreak after it discovered each state had a lab-confirmed case matching the clusters in Michigan and Ohio traced to beef sold in Kroger supermarkets and processed by Nebraska Beef.  Kroger volunteered information its products were tainted; however, no other retailers publicly linked themselves to Nebraska Beef, a Kroger supplier.  Kroger issued its recall on June 25, but it took Nebraska Beef five days to issue its first recall of 532,000 pounds of meat sent to companies in seven states.  Over one week later, on July 3, Nebraska Beef finally  issued an expanded recall for 5.3 million pounds of its meat.

With the announcement of the expanded recall, the USDA reported Nebraska Beef's production practices were insufficient to protect meat from contamination, products might have been produced in unsanitary conditions, and Nebraska Beef was lax in its response that its meat might be contaminated.  Nebraska Beef has been involved in other issues where questionable practices and food contamination were found to have occurred.  In 2003, the USDA went to court to try to shut down Nebraska Beef’s Omaha packing plant after citing it for numerous violations.  Three years later, Minnesota public health and USDA officials linked an E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak in ground beef that killed a Minnesota woman to Nebraska Beef.

In the US, E. coli is the leading cause of food-borne illness and about 73,000 people are infected and 61 people die from E. coli annually.  Scientists report infections from antibiotic resistant E. coli bacteria are now spreading that the negative health effects of E. coli can remain for months and years; can have long-term, lasting effects; and can appear months or years after the original illness.

Forty-five people have been sickened and 21 hospitalized; one person developed kidney failure.  A woman who fell ill after eating beef she bought at a Kroger store in Dublin, Ohio, has filed a lawsuit against Kroger.


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