New E. Coli 0157:H7 Recall
On April 21, 2007, the U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) announced that a California company is recalling approximately 107,943 pounds of frozen ground beef products because of the possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said on April 20, 2007 that sampling was carried out by the California Department of Health Services during an investigation.
The beef from Richwood Meat Company was produced on April 28, 2006, and was distributed to retail outlets in Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) said products being recalled have an establishment number “EST. 8264” inside the U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) mark of inspection and a date code of 118-6 or 4/28/06.
On April 20, 2007, California Health Officials stated that at least three children in Napa County who ate at Little League baseball snack shacks after eating the affected ground beef were sickened by E. coli. The products being recalled are hamburger patties and ground beef sold under the brands Fireriver, Chef’s Pride, Ritz Food, Blackwood Farms, California Pacific Associates, C&C Distributing, Golbon and Richwood.
E. Coli O157:H7 is one of hundreds of strains of the bacterium Escherichia coli. Although most strains are harmless, this particular strain produces a powerful toxin that can cause severe illness and even death E. coli O157:H7 has been found in the intestines of healthy cattle, deer, goats, and sheep. E. coli O157:H7 was initially recognized as a cause of illness in 1982 during an outbreak of severe bloody diarrhea; the outbreak was traced to contaminated hamburgers. Since then, eating undercooked ground beef more than any other food has caused more illnesses in the United States. The combination of letters and numbers in the name of the bacterium refers to the specific markers found on its surface and distinguishes it from other types of E. coli.
The organism is generally found on most cattle farms, and it is commonly found in petting zoos and can live in the intestines of healthy cattle, deer, goats, and sheep. Meat can become contaminated during slaughter, and organisms can be accidentally mixed into meat when it is ground. Bacteria present on the cow’s udders or on equipment may get into raw milk. In a petting zoo, E.coli O157:H7 can contaminate the ground, railings, feed bins, and fur of the animals. Among other known sources of infection are consumption of sprouts, lettuce, spinach, salami, unpasteurized milk and juice, and by swimming in or drinking sewage-contaminated water.
Bacteria in loose stool of infected persons can be passed from one person to another if hygiene or hand washing habits are inadequate. This is particularly likely among toddlers who are not toilet trained. Family members and playmates of these children are at high risk of becoming infected. Young children typically shed the organism in their feces for a week or two after their illness resolves. Older children and adults rarely carry the organism without symptoms.
People generally become ill from E. coli O157:H7 two to eight days (average of 3-4) after being exposed to the bacteria. Escherichia coli O157:H7 infection often causes severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Occasionally the infection causes non-bloody diarrhea or no symptoms. Usually little or no fever is present, and the illness resolves in 5 to 10 days. In children under 5 years of age and the elderly, the infection can also cause a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), in which the red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail.
Infection with E. coli O157:H7 is diagnosed by detecting the bacterium in the stool. Roughly one-third of laboratories that culture stool still do not test for E. coli O157:H7, so it is important to request that the stool specimen be tested on sorbitol-MacConkey (SMAC) agar for this organism. All persons who suddenly have diarrhea with blood should get their stool tested for E. coli O157:H7.
Most people tend to recover without antibiotics or other specific treatment within 5 to 10 days. Antibiotics should not be used to treat this infection. Antidiarrheal agents, such as Loperamide (Imodium), should also be avoided.
- Cook all ground beef and hamburger thoroughly.
- If you are served an undercooked hamburger or other ground beef product in a restaurant, send it back for further cooking. You may want to ask for a new bun and a clean plate, too.
- Avoid spreading harmful bacteria in your kitchen. Keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods. Wash hands, counters, and utensils with hot soapy water after they touch raw meat. Never place cooked hamburgers or ground beef on the unwashed plate that held raw patties. Wash meat thermometers in between tests of patties that require further cooking.
- Drink only pasteurized milk, juice, or cider.
- Wash fruits and vegetables under running water, especially those that will not be cooked. Avoid swallowing lake or pool water while swimming.
- Make sure that persons with diarrhea, especially children, wash their hands carefully with soap after bowel movements to reduce the risk of spreading infection, and that persons wash hands after changing soiled diapers.
Need Legal Help For Victims of E. Coli O157:H7 Contamination?
If you or a loved one has been infected with E. coli O157:H7 you may have valuable legal rights, please fill out the form at the right for a free case evaluation by a qualified pollutants attorney. Alternatively, call our toll free number: 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).