New Mexico health officials report the state has 30 people with Salmonella Newport infections linked to ground beef. Although the officials didn’t name any companies, it is likely the illnesses are part of a multistate outbreak that is linked to beef from JBS Tolleson Inc.

The JBS operation in Tolleson, AZ, is part of the world’s largest beef packing company, Brazil-based JBS S.A. The company recalled 7 million pounds of “non-intact beef products” in the United States in early October. The same day federal officials announced the multistate Salmonella Newport outbreak.

All of the 30 Salmonella patients in New Mexico became ill after “preparing ground beef at home,” according to the report from the New Mexico Department of Health. More than one in four of the New Mexico patients have had symptoms so severe they had to be admitted to hospitals. Patients in the state have been sick an average of 13 days, which is two to three times longer than symptoms usually last.

In the initial multistate outbreak report Oct. 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 57 people in 16 states were confirmed infected. By Oct. 23, the patient count had more than doubled, with the agency reporting 120 people across 22 states had been sickened. At that time, the CDC’s tally showed only one confirmed patient in New Mexico.

Nationwide, the outbreak has an unusually high hospitalization rate for Salmonella infections, with more than a third of patients having been admitted to hospitals. Of the people for whom complete information is available, 93 percent reported eating ground beef at home before they became sick.

“My assumption, and I think it’s a safe one, is that the New Mexico cases are linked to JBS,” said Seattle food safety attorney Bill Marler. “With the state now reporting 30, as opposed to one, I expect the CDC will be reporting more cases this week.”

A founding member of Marler Clark LLP, the Seattle attorney is representing more than a dozen outbreak victims and their families. He said yesterday some of the ill people have filed civil actions and more are likely to do so.

New Mexico’s health department reported they started recording outbreak cases in late August. That fits the CDC’s timeline, which shows illnesses began Aug. 5. As of the CDC’s Oct. 23 update, the most recent illness in the 22-state outbreak began Sept. 28.

It can take several weeks from the time a person shows the first signs of infection until diagnosis and confirmed test results are reported to the CDC. Ill people range in age from less than one year old to 88 years old. No deaths had been reported to the CDC as of Oct. 23.

Distribution details
Company records and reports from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service show JBS Tolleson sold the implicated meat to large retail chains including Walmart and Kroger, as well as regional chains, local chains and individually owned stores. 

The JBS records also show the company shipped the beef to retail institutions — such as schools, hospitals and other foodservice operations — nationwide. The country’s largest foodservice supplier, US Foods, is on the list of companies that bought the beef that has been recalled.

As they become available, specific retail locations that received the beef are listed on the FSIS website. The list is periodically updated. View it by clicking here.

The FSIS also has photos of product labels to help consumers and businesses identify the recalled beef. As of Oct. 11, all of the product labels posted on the FSIS website — except one provided by the Kroger Co. — were plain white with black printing. Many do not include a brand or any other identifying words. They do include product codes.

All of the recalled products had the establishment number “EST. 267” printed inside the USDA mark of inspection when JBS sold them, but portions of bulk quantities that were repackaged by retailers and other JBS customers likely do not have any establishment numbers.

Products shipped by JBS Tolleson that are included in the recall are listed on the FSIS website. The list includes bulk packages that are not available to consumers.

Company records show JBS packaged the recalled beef products from July 26 through Sept. 7. There is concern that consumers, restaurants and institutional kitchens may have some of the implicated beef in freezers. Freezing temperatures do not kill Salmonella.

Advice for the public
Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled beef and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the pathogen. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Specific laboratory tests are necessary to diagnosis Salmonella infections, which can be mistaken for other illnesses.

Symptoms usually last 4 to 7 days in otherwise healthy adults. In some cases, however, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Older adults, children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

For additional coverage of the recall and outbreak, please see:

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