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14 Ill in Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Ground Beef

Fourteen people are confirmed infected with an antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella in an outbreak that has led to a recall of ground beef from a Northeastern chain of grocery stores.

In a news alert issued early Friday — at 12:43 a.m. EST — the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said Hannaford, a Scarborough, ME-based grocery chain, is recalling an undetermined amount of fresh ground beef that may be contaminated with Salmonella Typhimurium. 

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The recall involves: 

“73% Hannaford Regular Ground Beef”

“75% Hannaford Regular Ground Beef”

“80% Hannaford Regular Ground Beef”

“85% Hannaford Regular Ground Beef”

“90% Hannaford Regular Ground Beef”

“80% Taste of Inspirations Angus Ground Beef”

“85% Taste of Inspirations Angus Ground Beef”

“90% Taste of Inspirations Angus Ground Beef”

“85% Nature’s Place Ground Beef”

“90% Nature’s Place Ground Beef”

The various packages of ground beef have sell-by dates of Dec. 17, 2011 or earlier and were prepared and sold at Hannaford stores throughout Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. Hannaford said customers who have questions about the recall can call its Customer Information Center, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., at 800-213-9040, and choose option 6.

Some of the potentially contaminated ground beef may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers, FSIS warned.

The link between the illness outbreak and the Hannaford ground beef is based on  “epidemiologic and traceback investigations, as well as in-store reviews,” according to the FSIS, which is working with the Centers for Disease Control and its state health partners. The investigation is on-going.

Because of what it called “Hannaford’s limited records,” FSIS said it has not determined who supplied the beef to the grocery chain. 

“FSIS recently identified this problem at the retail level and is pursuing rulemaking to address the concern,” the agency wrote. “This recall is being issued as part of a continuing investigation. FSIS has not yet been able to identify FSIS-regulated suppliers of raw beef ground at Hannaford Stores related to the outbreak that could be subject to recall action.”

FSIS said the CDC reported 14 infected people with an indistinguishable pulse field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern. Eleven of those individuals reported consuming ground beef.  Ten of the 14 case-patients said they had purchased ground beef at Hannaford stores in Maine, New York, New Hampshire or Vermont between Oct. 12 and Nov. 20.

The outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium has initially tested resistant to multiple commonly prescribed antibiotics, including drug classes such as beta-lactams, aminoglycosides and cephalosporins, FSIS reported. 

According to the CDC, outbreaks caused by antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella have been associated with an increased rate of hospitalization. Seven of the 14 infected people in this outbreak have been hospitalized.

While Salmonella contamination is often connected to poultry, “Salmonella and beef recalls are not unusual,” said Bill Marler, food safety attorney and publisher of Food Safety News. “There have been recalls of beef linked to Salmonella when there have also been illnesses.”

 In 2009, for example, Beef Packers Inc., owned by Cargill, recalled more than 20,000 pounds of ground beef contaminated with a drug-resistant strain of Salmonella Newport. Two illnesses were associated with that recall.

For every lab-confirmed case of Salmonella infection, the CDC estimates there are at least 30 unreported illnesses.

© Food Safety News