An expanding outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 cases in New England that Food Safety News reported on just two days ago took an ominous turn Saturday when New Hampshire reported the first fatality associated with the outbreak.

e-coli-story.jpgAnd just hours before that grim news came word that a much larger ground beef recall was in the works from a second meat processor.  Now popular retailers including Price Chopper, Giant Food Stores, Ford Brothers, BJ’s Wholesale/Burls and Acme are all involved.

It was the tragic death in New Hampshire that caused health officials to step forward and urge residents to take beef recalls seriously.  In addition to the one death, New Hampshire reported that two others were being treated at hospitals after eating the contaminated beef.

“E coli is a bacteria that produces a toxin that is potentially deadly to people,” warned Dr. Jose Montero, public health director at the New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services.

With two apparently unconnected meat processors involved with recalls, Seattle food safety attorney Bill Marler says a third slaughterhouse could yet link them.

The first lawsuit stemming from the current outbreak will be filed Monday in the Trial Court of Massachusetts Superior Court, on behalf of a Marshfield, MA family whose grandmother and children were infected with the pathogenic E. coli strain O157:H7 after eating ground beef purchased at the town’s Star Market.

New England’s most recent sweep of E. coli infections appeared to begin with the outing sixth graders at Rhode Island’s Lincoln Middle School took to the Plymouth, MA Camp Bournedale.  As they returned from the Oct. 13-16 field trip up to 20 suffered from diarrheal illnesses and two tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 and were admitted to hospitals. 

Massachusetts health officials traced those illnesses to hamburger patties served by the camp to its visitors from Rhode Island.  South Shore Meats, a wholesaler in Brockton, MA, supplied Camp Bournedale’s hamburger patties.  

Both Rhode Island children were released from the hospital by Oct. 26.

The next day, the public learned South Shore Meats was recalling about 1,000 pounds of ground beef and steak products produced by the Crocetti’s Oakdale Packing Co. in Brockton, MA.  It was the company’s first recall since 1990.

It is Crocetti’s Oakdale Packing, doing business as South Shore Meats, that the Marshfield family will sue on Monday, according to Marler, their attorney.

By last week, however, more New England E. coli cases than could be explained by South Shore’s relatively small recall had been reported.  Into the breach stepped Fairbank Farms, an Ashville, NY meat processor located 550 miles east of Brockton.

At 3 a.m. Saturday, it sent out a voluntary recall notice via the USDA for 545,699 pounds of ground beef. 

The Fairbank recall is for ground beef produced Sept. 14-16, 2009, well past the date it could be sold as fresh meat.  However, the company has launched an outside media and consumer education campaign to get customers to check their freezers for any of the contaminated beef that might still be around.

Fairbank Farms’ reach extends well beyond New England.  While its ground beef was sold in Connecticut and Massachusetts, it also supplies retailers in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Fairbank Farms is no stranger to conducting recalls.  In September 2007, it recalled 884 pounds of ground beef for possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination, and in May 2008, it recalled 22,481 pounds of ground beef products for containing pieces of plastic.  The 2007 E. coli problem was found through the company’s own testing.   Customers complained about the plastic in 2008.

Consumers with questions about the recall should contact Fairbank Farms’ toll-free consumer hotline at 1-877-546-0122.

Real people daily answer the hotline from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST, promised Fairbank spokeswoman Aggie Schafer.

To identify recalled products, consumers should check the package label and look for the product name, package weight and sell-by date. All labels will show an establishment number of EST 492 inside the USDA mark of inspection. Recalled products include:


Packaged products (Sell-by dates ranging from 09/19/09 through 09/28/09)

  • Wild Harvest Natural Angus Ground Beef 85/15, 1#
  • Lancaster Brand Extra Lean Ground Beef 96/04, 1#
  • Lancaster Brand Ground Beef 90/10, 1# & 2#

BJ’s Wholesale Club/Burris

Packaged products (Sell-by dates ranging from 09/19/09 through 09/28/09)

  • Fresh Ground Beef Patties 85/15, 5#
  • Lean Ground Beef 93/07, 3# & 5# 
  • Meatloaf and Meatball Mix, 2.5#

Ford Brothers

Packaged products (Sell-by dates ranging from 09/19/09 to 09/28/09)

  • Fresh Ground Beef Patty 80/20, 3#

Giant Food Stores

Packaged products (Sell-by dates ranging from 09/19/09 to 09/28/09)

  • Giant Meatloaf & Meatball Mix, 1#
  • Giant Nature’s Promise Ground Beef, 1#
  • Giant Nature’s Promise Ground Beef Patties
  • Giant Extra Lean Ground Beef 96/04, 1#

Price Chopper

Packaged products (Sell-by dates ranging from 09/19/09 to 09/28/09)

  • Price Chopper Meatloaf & Meatball Mix, 1# & 2.5#
  • Price Chopper Extra Lean Ground Beef 96/4, 1#
  • Price Chopper Fresh Ground Beef Chuck for Chili 80/20, 1#

Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc.

Packaged products (Sell-by dates ranging from 09/19/09 to 09/28/09)

  • Shaw’s Fresh Ground Beef 93/7, 1# and 2#
  • Shaw’s Fresh Ground Beef 80/20, 1#, 2#, 3#
  • Shaw’s Fresh Ground Beef 75/25, 1# and 3#
  • Shaw’s Fresh Ground Sirloin Beef Patties 90/10, 1.3#
  • Shaw’s Fresh Ground Round Beef Patties 85/15, 1.3#
  • Shaw’s Fresh Ground Beef Patties 80/20, 1.3#
  • Shaw’s Fresh Ground Beef Patties Family Pack 80/20, 3#
  • Shaw’s Angus Ground Beef 85/15, 1#
  • Shaw’s Fresh Ground Round Beef 85/15, 1#, 2#, 3#
  • Shaw’s Natural Ground Beef 90/10, 1#
  • Shaw’s Natural Ground Beef 85/15, 1#
  • Shaw’s Fresh Ground Sirloin 90/10, 1#, 2#, 3#
  • Meatloaf & Meatball Mix, 1#

Trader Joe’s

Brick packs (Sell-by dates 10/06/09 or10/07/09)

  • Trader Joe’s Butcher Shop Fine Quality Meats Ground Beef 85/15, 1#
  • Trader Joe’s Butcher Shop Fine Quality Meats Ground Beef 80/20, 1#

Packaged Products (Sell-by dates ranging from 09/19/09 to 09/28/09)

  • Trader Joe’s Butcher Shop Fine Quality Meats Beef Patty 85/15, 1#
  • Trader Joe’s Butcher Shop Fine Quality Meats Ground Beef 96/4 Extra Lean, 1#

Other products

  • Cases of 10-lb. Fairbank Farms fresh ground beef chubs (for store grind). These products had a sell date of 10/3/09, 10/4/09 or 10/5/09, but will likely not bear those sell-by dates on their package labels. These products were distributed to retail establishments in Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia for further processing. Consumers with concerns sho uld contact their point of purchase.

Photo:  Transmission electron micrograph of Escherichia coli O157:H7 courtesy CDC/ Peggy S. Hayes

  • Holly

    Please be a good steward of our only life supporting planet and quit eating animals! If a corporation which is only a certificate can be deemed a “person” under the law then our animals with biological systems should also be considered “persons” and given full rights! I am sorry for the people affected by this illness.

  • hsr0601

    Provided the average temperature is getting higher, accordingly all forms of germs, viruses, and influenza etc are more likely to multiply.
    Some skeptics say the warning against hazards of climate change is overstated, but judging from more frequent and widespread outbreaks of e. coli, salmonella, and bird, swine flu cases endangering human lives and economic recovery seriously, some prompt measures need to be taken, I guess.