An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 associated with a Massachusetts meat packer is spreading across New England, Food Safety News has learned.

hamburger-4-featured.jpgSeattle food safety attorney Bill Marler was called to New England by parents of children who were sickened by the dangerous E. coli bacteria.   Late Thursday, he said it appears there are at least 30 people infected, and five are still being treated in area hospitals.

Marler, who left a food safety conference in Chicago to meet with the families, said Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire have joined Rhode Island as states with E. coli cases involved in the outbreak.

Originally, Rhode Island’s Lincoln Middle School reported the current outbreak after 20 sixth graders and their chaperones returned with diarrheal illnesses after a three-day field trip to Camp Bournedale in Plymouth, MA.   Two of the Rhode Island children tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 and were admitted to the hospital.

Massachusetts health officials found meat at the camp that was contaminated with E. coli and that finding brought the recall of 1,039 pounds of fresh ground beef patties by Crocetti’s Oakdale Packing Co., doing business as South Shore Meats, Inc., in Brockton, MA.

South Shore Meats said the patties were made from bench trim and mechanically tenderized beef cuts.

In addition to the various state health departments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are involved in the investigation. It was CDC that determined the meat at the camp was associated with the illnesses in Rhode Island.

Ironically, it was the camp owner who announced on Oct. 24 that its hamburgers had made the Rhode Island sixth graders sick, but the FSIS did not issue the recall until the early hours of Oct. 27.

“There was an inexplicable delay between the time he illnesses were linked to meat and [when] an official recall was issued,” Marler said.  “Speed is crucial in an E. coli outbreak, and can make a vital difference in the number of people who consume the tainted product and fall ill.”

Products involved in the recall include:

  • 10-pound boxes containing 40, 4-ounce packages of “Beef Sirloin Patties.”
  • 7.5-pound boxes containing 12, 10-ounce packages of “Beef Teres Major Steaks Seasoned.”Boxes of 24, 5-ounce packages of “BEEF BUTT STEAKS, (Filet Style).”
  • 9-pound boxes containing 12, 12-ounce packages of “BEEF BUTT STEAK, Center Cut, (sirloin style).”
  • 9-pound boxes containing 12, 12-ounce packages of “BEEF BUTT STEAK, Center Cut, (filet style).”
  • 6.75-pound boxes containing 12, 9-ounce packages of “BEEF BUTT STEAK, Center Cut, (sirloin style).”
  • Boxes of 16, 10-ounce packages of “Beef Top Butt Steaks Sirloin Style.”
  • Boxes of 20, 8-ounce packages of “Beef Butt Steaks Club Style.”
  • Boxes of 26, 6-ounce packages of “Beef Top Butt Steaks Sirloin Style.”
  • Boxes of 12, 10-ounce packages of “BEEF BUTT STEAKS, (Filet Style).”
  • 6-pound boxes containing 16, 6-ounce packages of “Beef Filet Of Sirloin, Executive Cut.”
  • Boxes of 12, 8-ounce packages of “BEEF BUTT STEAKS, (Filet Style).”

Each box bears the establishment number “EST. 6336” inside the USDA mark of inspection and may also bear a date code of “281.”

The beef products were produced on October 8, 2009, and were distributed to wholesale distributors and institutions in Massachusetts.   A list of retailers and restaurants that might have ended up with the beef is not available.