Federal officials say they think an E. coli outbreak traced to beef from Adams Farm Slaughterhouse is over, but they qualified that announcement Wednesday with a warning that consumers unaware of the company’s recall of beef, veal and bison could inadvertently become additional victims.
“This outbreak appears to be over. However, the recalled beef, veal, and bison products may still be in freezers,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s report.
“CDC recommends that consumers, restaurants and retailers do not use, serve or sell the recalled beef, veal, and bison products.”
The recall, issued Sept. 24 by the Athol, MA, slaughter operation, included all raw intact and non-intact beef products originated from animals slaughtered on July 15, 25, and 27, and August 3, 8, 10, 11, 17, 24 and 26 that was further processed and packed on various dates between July 21 and Sept. 22.
Illness onset dates for the 11 outbreak victims range from June 27 through Sept. 10, the CDC reported. The outbreak spanned five states. Seven of the 11 victims had to be hospitalized. One person developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.
“In interviews, ill people answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became ill. Seven of the seven people reached for interview reported eating ground beef in the week before they became ill. Traceback information indicated that six of these seven ill people ate ground beef produced by Adams Farm Slaughterhouse,” the CDC reported.
“The Connecticut Department of Public Health collected leftover Adams Farm Slaughterhouse ground beef from an ill person’s home and from a restaurant for testing. Test results showed the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 in both samples of leftover ground beef.”
Although owners of Adams Farm Slaughterhouse voluntarily recalled meat, they initially challenged the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s handling of the situation. On the company’s Facebook page a statement posted at the time of the recall — but since removed — described the USDA’s actions as unjustified and unrealistic.
“We have narrowed down the point of contamination to two days in the middle of August and have been working with our farmer customers to ensure that none of that product is sold and for them to inform their customers. It is the usual practice for all product that is cut and packaged on the same days that any contaminated product is packaged to be part of a recall and we took immediate steps to ensure that all product associated with those two days of production have been recalled,” the statement on the Adams Farm Facebook page said.
“The USDA has instructed us to also recall product from all animals slaughtered over a 7 week period, many weeks before and after the actual contamination took place, because of their fear, which is both unjustified and unrealistic , that there may have been cross contamination on the day of slaughter despite each carcass being hung separately from the time to kill to being cut and packaged. While we are very concerned over the USDA’s over-reaction and its impact on our customers, we have fully cooperated with their requirements but want our customers to be aware that we stand behind all of our products and will continue to stand behind all of our farmer customers and their consumers.”
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)