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Update: 19 Ill in 16 States in E. coli Outbreak

The Christmas Eve recall of almost 250,000 pounds of mechanically tenderized steak productsis now linked to 19 E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in 16 states and to three restaurant chains–Moe’s Southwest Grill, Carino’s Italian Grill, and KRM restaurants.

Oklahoma-based National Steak and Poultry (NSP) announced last week it was initiating a recall of processed steak products after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) identified a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses.

According to the FSIS release, the outbreak is linked to illness in 6 states: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota, and Washington, but a CDC spokeswoman confirmed this morning that 16 states are reporting E. coli causes tied to the outbreak.

Neither the CDC nor FSIS has released a complete list of states involved in the outbreak.

tenderized steak outbreak feature.jpgAccording to a Food Safety News survey of state public health departments, Colorado has one confirmed case from November, which did not result in hospitalization.  A woman from Washington state fell ill while visiting Nebraska and is now recovering after hospitalization.

Iowa and Kansas health departments each confirmed one illness tied to the outbreak, and South Dakota officials reported two illnesses tied to undisclosed restaurants.  Public health officials in Michigan have yet to confirm the number of illnesses tied to the outbreak, though FSIS confirmed there are illnesses linked to the outbreak in the state.

FSIS also has yet to release a complete list of retail establishments that received the recalled meat.  NSP says it believes the recall was limited to Moes’, Carino’s, and KRM restaurants.

NSP recalled over 25 different products. According to FSIS, all involved products bear an “EST. 6010T” establishment label and are labeled with packaging dates “10/12/2009,” “10/13/2009,” “10/14/2009,” or “10/21/2009.”

Most of the illnesses appear to have occurred later in November.

Mechanically tenderizing, otherwise known as blade- or needle-tenderizing, can drive potentially harmful bacteria to the center of steaks, which may not be cooked to adequate temperatures by consumers or restaurants.  The USDA currently does not require labeling mechanically tenderized steaks.

According to NSP, the recall is the company’s first in nearly 30 years of business.

© Food Safety News
  • Here is the most up-to-date information:
    Thankfully Kim Archer of the Tulsa World Herald is adding to the slow roll of information on this outbreak and recall – “Owasso beef linked to E. coli.” Here is some clarified and newer information:
    Nineteen sickened, so says the CDC:
    “The E. coli outbreak — considered a Class 1 recall because the health risk is high — has sickened at least 19 people, said Arleen Porcell-Pharr, a spokeswoman for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. She could not provide further information about the severity of the illnesses.” Hmm, yesterday I had confirmation from state health departments of 1 illness each in Iowa, Kansas and Colorado and 2 in South Dakota. The 1 ill in Washington ate in Nebraska. Michigan had not yet responded. So, that means 13 sick in Michigan?
    Only three restaurant chains received the steak:
    “The recall did not include products shipped to retailers but is limited to products sold to Moe’s, Carino’s Italian Grill and KRM restaurants in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota and Washington State, National Steak and Poultry said. KRM Restaurant Group is the parent company of 54th Street Grill & Bar, which operates 15 locations in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois.” Not sure that is accurate given sick person from Washington ate in Nebraska.
    National Steak and Poultry product tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, so says FSIS:
    “The USDA verified those dates, adding that source material for the company’s chopped steak product produced Oct. 12 that had tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 had mingled with products produced on the other dates.” Hmm, when was that test done? Who had the information? Was the product shipped before test results came back?
    Federal officials began investigation December 11:
    “Federal officials began investigating the E. coli outbreak Dec. 11, according to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. The Owasso plant’s beef recall was issued Christmas Eve.” What prompted investigation by Federal officials (USDA, FSIS, CDC)? When did state Department’s of Health become involved?
    As I said yesterday:
    “Bill Marler, a Seattle-based food safety advocate and attorney, said that when it involves E. coli O157:H7, just issuing a recall isn’t remotely enough action to protect consumers. The recall was issued on a holiday, with illnesses across the country and only a vague reference to meat being shipped to restaurants nationwide, he said. Federal agencies and the company must know which restaurants it went to, and the public deserves to know, too.” Kim’s story is helpful, but still more questions than answers.

  • smahala

    Until CAFO’s (confined animal farming operations) are eliminated our food will not be safe or healthy. Everything else is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Stop throwing time and money at the symptoms and eliminate the problem.

  • jmunsell

    In response to smahala’s comments on CAFO’s. Like it or not, CAFO’s are here to stay, and I heartily endorse their right to exist. Furthermore, I love well-marbled USDA Choice and Prime steaks, which require CAFO’s to produce. We cannot FORCE increased production of range/grass fed livestock, not does any government agency have the right to dictate such an idea. We must work with what we have, and several workable solutions must be considered. One is vaccines for live animals, and much recent progress has been made. While the idea of immunizing humans to protect us from E.coli and Salmonella bacteria sounds great, the science to produce such protection isn’t even on the starting block yet. I agree with your suggestion that we eliminate the problem, rather than focusing on the symptoms. However, USDA/FSIS aggressively disagrees. The agency is perfectly comfortable focusing all its enforcement actions against the downline further processing plants which do not INTRODUCE the enteric bacteria; rather, such entities unwittingly purchase USDA-Inspected and Passed meat which was previously contaminated from their source slaughter providers. It now appears that FSIS will conduct a 1-day public hearing in WDC in March to discuss how to improve their Traceback procedures. The agency’s historical inability (actually, its UNWILLINGNESS) to traceback to the true source of contamination has made America conspicuous on the global marketplace because of our abject failure to trace back to the origin of contamination. CAFO’s will always be here, so we need to start with that correct assumption. Therefore, we instead need to place the bulk of our public health concerns on the abbatoir floors where E.coli & Salmonella are accidentally planted onto exposed beef carcasses. Several potential solutions present themselves, such as reduced line (chain) speeds at the big packers. Another is low dose/low penetration of carcasses with electronic pasteurization technizues, which does NOT use radioactive materials. Testing continues to be an excellent validation of the success or failure of individual plant’s ability to produce consistently safe meat. Thus, the agency should implement a huge increase of agency-conducted microbial sampling at all slaughter plants, primarily at the fast-speed largest plants. And, all lab test results must be made public in real time. We would quickly discover which plants are the true, and recurring, culprits in our ongoing outbreaks. Good luck with this idea however, because the agency is paralyzed with fear of litigation emanating from the big plants. We will always have CAFO’s, but we can reduce the incidence of 0157:H7 in intestines, and can force the unsanitary plants to clean up their act, if only FSIS would develop the courage to do what it knows it has to. John Munsell

  • jmunsell

    In response to smahala’s comments on CAFO’s. Like it or not, CAFO’s are here to stay, and I heartily endorse their right to exist. Furthermore, I love well-marbled USDA Choice and Prime steaks, which require CAFO’s to produce. We cannot FORCE increased production of range/grass fed livestock, not does any government agency have the right to dictate such an idea. We must work with what we have, and several workable solutions must be considered. One is vaccines for live animals, and much recent progress has been made. While the idea of immunizing humans to protect us from E.coli and Salmonella bacteria sounds great, the science to produce such protection isn’t even on the starting block yet. I agree with your suggestion that we eliminate the problem, rather than focusing on the symptoms. However, USDA/FSIS aggressively disagrees. The agency is perfectly comfortable focusing all its enforcement actions against the downline further processing plants which do not INTRODUCE the enteric bacteria; rather, such entities unwittingly purchase USDA-Inspected and Passed meat which was previously contaminated from their source slaughter providers. It now appears that FSIS will conduct a 1-day public hearing in WDC in March to discuss how to improve their Traceback procedures. The agency’s historical inability (actually, its UNWILLINGNESS) to traceback to the true source of contamination has made America conspicuous on the global marketplace because of our abject failure to trace back to the origin of contamination. CAFO’s will always be here, so we need to start with that correct assumption. Therefore, we instead need to place the bulk of our public health concerns on the abbatoir floors where E.coli & Salmonella are accidentally planted onto exposed beef carcasses. Several potential solutions present themselves, such as reduced line (chain) speeds at the big packers. Another is low dose/low penetration of carcasses with electronic pasteurization technizues, which does NOT use radioactive materials. Testing continues to be an excellent validation of the success or failure of individual plant’s ability to produce consistently safe meat. Thus, the agency should implement a huge increase of agency-conducted microbial sampling at all slaughter plants, primarily at the fast-speed largest plants. And, all lab test results must be made public in real time. We would quickly discover which plants are the true, and recurring, culprits in our ongoing outbreaks. Good luck with this idea however, because the agency is paralyzed with fear of litigation emanating from the big plants. We will always have CAFO’s, but we can reduce the incidence of 0157:H7 in intestines, and can force the unsanitary plants to clean up their act, if only FSIS would develop the courage to do what it knows it has to. John Munsell

  • John Munsell

    In response to smahala’s comments on CAFO’s. Like it or not, CAFO’s are here to stay, and I heartily endorse their right to exist. Furthermore, I love well-marbled USDA Choice and Prime steaks, which require CAFO’s to produce. We cannot FORCE increased production of range/grass fed livestock, not does any government agency have the right to dictate such an idea. We must work with what we have, and several workable solutions must be considered. One is vaccines for live animals, and much recent progress has been made. While the idea of immunizing humans to protect us from E.coli and Salmonella bacteria sounds great, the science to produce such protection isn’t even on the starting block yet. I agree with your suggestion that we eliminate the problem, rather than focusing on the symptoms. However, USDA/FSIS aggressively disagrees. The agency is perfectly comfortable focusing all its enforcement actions against the downline further processing plants which do not INTRODUCE the enteric bacteria; rather, such entities unwittingly purchase USDA-Inspected and Passed meat which was previously contaminated from their source slaughter providers. It now appears that FSIS will conduct a 1-day public hearing in WDC in March to discuss how to improve their Traceback procedures. The agency’s historical inability (actually, its UNWILLINGNESS) to traceback to the true source of contamination has made America conspicuous on the global marketplace because of our abject failure to trace back to the origin of contamination. CAFO’s will always be here, so we need to start with that correct assumption. Therefore, we instead need to place the bulk of our public health concerns on the abbatoir floors where E.coli & Salmonella are accidentally planted onto exposed beef carcasses. Several potential solutions present themselves, such as reduced line (chain) speeds at the big packers. Another is low dose/low penetration of carcasses with electronic pasteurization technizues, which does NOT use radioactive materials. Testing continues to be an excellent validation of the success or failure of individual plant’s ability to produce consistently safe meat. Thus, the agency should implement a huge increase of agency-conducted microbial sampling at all slaughter plants, primarily at the fast-speed largest plants. And, all lab test results must be made public in real time. We would quickly discover which plants are the true, and recurring, culprits in our ongoing outbreaks. Good luck with this idea however, because the agency is paralyzed with fear of litigation emanating from the big plants. We will always have CAFO’s, but we can reduce the incidence of 0157:H7 in intestines, and can force the unsanitary plants to clean up their act, if only FSIS would develop the courage to do what it knows it has to. John Munsell

  • John Munsell

    In response to smahala’s comments on CAFO’s. Like it or not, CAFO’s are here to stay, and I heartily endorse their right to exist. Furthermore, I love well-marbled USDA Choice and Prime steaks, which require CAFO’s to produce. We cannot FORCE increased production of range/grass fed livestock, not does any government agency have the right to dictate such an idea. We must work with what we have, and several workable solutions must be considered. One is vaccines for live animals, and much recent progress has been made. While the idea of immunizing humans to protect us from E.coli and Salmonella bacteria sounds great, the science to produce such protection isn’t even on the starting block yet. I agree with your suggestion that we eliminate the problem, rather than focusing on the symptoms. However, USDA/FSIS aggressively disagrees. The agency is perfectly comfortable focusing all its enforcement actions against the downline further processing plants which do not INTRODUCE the enteric bacteria; rather, such entities unwittingly purchase USDA-Inspected and Passed meat which was previously contaminated from their source slaughter providers. It now appears that FSIS will conduct a 1-day public hearing in WDC in March to discuss how to improve their Traceback procedures. The agency’s historical inability (actually, its UNWILLINGNESS) to traceback to the true source of contamination has made America conspicuous on the global marketplace because of our abject failure to trace back to the origin of contamination. CAFO’s will always be here, so we need to start with that correct assumption. Therefore, we instead need to place the bulk of our public health concerns on the abbatoir floors where E.coli & Salmonella are accidentally planted onto exposed beef carcasses. Several potential solutions present themselves, such as reduced line (chain) speeds at the big packers. Another is low dose/low penetration of carcasses with electronic pasteurization technizues, which does NOT use radioactive materials. Testing continues to be an excellent validation of the success or failure of individual plant’s ability to produce consistently safe meat. Thus, the agency should implement a huge increase of agency-conducted microbial sampling at all slaughter plants, primarily at the fast-speed largest plants. And, all lab test results must be made public in real time. We would quickly discover which plants are the true, and recurring, culprits in our ongoing outbreaks. Good luck with this idea however, because the agency is paralyzed with fear of litigation emanating from the big plants. We will always have CAFO’s, but we can reduce the incidence of 0157:H7 in intestines, and can force the unsanitary plants to clean up their act, if only FSIS would develop the courage to do what it knows it has to. John Munsell