When the largest ground beef recalls of the year involve antibiotic-resistant Salmonella strains and the largest E. coli O157:H7 recall is for raw cookie dough, maybe a story about the end of the traditional E. coli season is a little passé.

hamburger case.jpgBefore E. coli O157:H7 was finding its way into just about everything, we used to associate it with ground beef recalls that typically began in the spring and ended in the fall.  By that measure, the traditional beef/E. coli season is about over and we can take stock of 2009–just remember E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure.  It should be avoided 24/7 year round!

Okay, here we go!

A total of just 574,447 pounds of beef contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 has been recalled so far this year, a drop of more than 92.5 percent from the nearly 7.5 million pounds included in 16 recalls during 2008.  Last year we were coming off a huge spike in E. coli O157:H7 meat recalls that approached 35 million pounds in 21 recalls for 2007.  Unless there is a big one between now and the end of the year, it looks like the big spike of ’07-’08 is history.

Still ten recalls this year totaling 574,447 pounds is running well above the 2006 total of 181,900 pounds in just eight recalls. (And does not include the 1.3 million pounds of beef recalled for Salmonella contamination in 2009.)

On May 4th, ending more than five months without a recall for E. coli O157:H7, Alex & George Wholesale recalled 4,663 pounds of beef it had sold to restaurants in western New York after routine microbiological testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) discovered the contamination in meat sold to restaurants.

Next up on May 12th, there was a recall of 375 pounds by Bob’s Food City, a retailer in Hot Springs, AK.   It was also triggered by routine FSIS testing.In the same month, on May 21st, Illinois-based Valley Meats LLC recalled 95,898 pounds of beef.  The Ohio Health Department traced a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 cases back to Valley Meats proucts during an outbreak investigation.  The 2009 E. coli season was well underway with its third recall.

On June 2nd, SP Provisions of Portland, OR recalled almost 40,000 pounds of ground beef products with possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination that was discovered by routine FSIS testing.  Only 1,537 pounds was recovered.

Snow Creek Processing in Seneca, SC issued a recall for 75 pounds of beef trim thought to be contaminated the E. coli O157:H7 on June 8th.  The bad meat was discovered through FSIS microbiological sampling after it had been distributed to retail establishments in North Carolina and South Carolina for further processing.

Then on June 22nd, International Meat Co. recalled 6,152 pounds of ground beef distributed to Chicago-area restaurants that was contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.   FSIS testing caught this one too.

Between  June 24th and 28th, the largest beef recall for E. coli O157:H7 contamination for 2009 was issued by the JBS Swift Co. in Greeley, CO.   Initially issued for 41,280 pounds of beef, JBS later expanded the beef recall to include another 380,000 pounds.

FSIS microbiological testing and investigation discovered the problem.  The tainted beef was produced at the Greeley Beef Plant on April 21 and 22, 2009 and then shipped to distributors and retail establishments in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin.

The ensuing outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that was traced back to JBS Swift beef infected at least 23 people in nine states, and 12 required hospital care.  Victims have sued JBS in U.S. District Courts in Wisconsin, Colorado, and Washington State, according to food safety attorney William Marler.

One of the smallest recalls of the year followed.  Montgomery, IL’s E.S. Miller Packing Co. recalled 219 pounds of ground beef that was bought by area restaurants.  The contamination was discovered through FSIS routine testing.

Sterling Pacific Meat Co. in City of Commerce, CA recalled 3,516 pounds of ground beef on Aug. 13th after FSIS testing for E. coli O157:H7 came back with a positive result.  The ground beef had been sold to restaurants in California and Arizona.

Four days later, on Aug. 17, Vineland, NJ-based Pasha Halal Poultry, doing business as Marcacci Meats, recalled approximately 128 pounds of ground beef products sold locally that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.  The contamination was turned up in FSIS testing.

There you have it, the ten 2009 recalls of beef contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.  Season over.  Maybe.