July 6, 2009

Multi-state outbreak of Swift beef E. coli

Several state health departments and U.S. agencies are investigating a multi-state outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to the JBS Swift Beef Co.

Health officials in several states who were investigating reports of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses found that most ill persons had consumed ground beef and many reported that it was undercooked, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.

At least some of the illnesses appear to be associated with products subject to the recalls of 41,280 pounds of beef products from JBS Swift Beef Co. that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The recall was expanded June 28 to include 380,000 pounds of assorted pieces of beef -- beef primal products -- from the company.

Samples from unopened packages of ground beef recovered from a patient's home were tested by the Michigan Public Health Laboratory and yielded an E. coli O157:H7 isolate that matched the DNA fingerprint of the outbreak strain, the CDC said. Twenty-three people infected with a strain of E. coli O157:H7 with a particular DNA fingerprint have been reported from nine states.

Consumers are urged to check their refrigerators and freezers for beef products produced by the firm and purchased on or after April 21, and discard or return the recalled beef products to the place of purchase for a refund, the CDC advised.

Health officials advise consumers to eat ground beef or ground beef patties that have been cooked to a safe internal temperature of 160 F.