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CDC Totals Damage From E. coli Outbreak

A final report on the Fairbank Farms outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 from ground beef was issued Nov. 24th by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Among its findings are:

  • Twenty-six persons from eight states were infected with matching strains of E. coli O157:H7.
  • Nineteen of the outbreak victims required hospitalization.
  • Five developed the type of kidney failure known as Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS).
  • Two deaths are associated with the outbreak.
  • Half the victims were male and 38 percent are 18 years of age or younger.  The age range of all victims was from age one to 88.
  • The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: California (1), Connecticut (6), Massachusetts (8), Maryland (1), Maine (4), New Hampshire (4), New York (1), and Vermont (1).

On Halloween, Fairbank Farms recalled 545,699 pounds of ground beef for possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7. It led to a multi-state outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections by CDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and state health departments.

The focus of the investigation is a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses, with isolates that match by “DNA fingerprinting” analyses, and found that most ill persons had consumed ground beef, with several purchasing the same or similar product from a common retail chain.

Two samples from opened packages of ground beef recovered from patients’ homes were tested by the Massachusetts and Connecticut Departments of Health and yielded E. coli O157:H7 isolates that matched the patient isolates by DNA analysis, CDC reports.

Of the 26 cases, the genetic associations of 24 human isolates and both of the product isolates have been confirmed by an advanced secondary DNA test; secondary tests are pending on others. Depending on the results of continuing laboratory testing and ongoing case finding, the number of persons determined to be in this cluster may increase or decrease.

The first reported illness began on September 17, 2009, and the last began on November 6, 2009.

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