An all-too-common problem for foodborne illness investigations is that the only real evidence gets eaten. That appears to be what happened with the E. coli illnesses in Vermont last month, where 11 people had E. coli O157:H7 infections that state health officials blamed on likely contamination from undercooked hamburgers. Safety News last reported on the outbreak associated with the popular Worthy Burger restaurant and brew pub in South Royalton, VT, on Oct. 20, when it was still widely believed that Shiga toxin-producing bacteria had been found in an unopened package of beef on the shelf of Worthy Burger’s walk-in
Continue Reading No Product Found to Compare to VT Outbreak Strain — or to Recall

Not quite a month ago, Vermont health officials announced they were dealing with an E. coli outbreak, which would eventually grow to an estimated 11 cases in three states. It was likely caused by restaurant hamburgers made from local grass-fed beef and prepared to satisfy the tastes of its customers, no matter how rare. Inside a walk-in cooler at the popular Worthy Burger restaurant, housed in a historic depot at South Royalton, VT, state officials found Shiga toxin-producing bacteria in an unopened package of beef. Such a finding is enough for recall whether the contaminated package was associated with an
Continue Reading Undercooked Burgers Likely Caused E. Coli Outbreak; Ground Beef So Far Escapes Recall

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 4.35.51 PMIn 1992 in response to a growing risk of pathogenic E. coli being linked to hamburger being cooked to the 140 degrees then suggested by the FDA Food Code, the State of Washington Department of Health increased the recommended temperature to 155 degrees – the only state to do so.  Officials disseminated the new temperature to all restaurants in the state and the corporate headquarters of nationwide restaurant chains – that included San Diego, California based Jack-in-the-Box. Jack-in-the-Box ignored the Department of Health recommendation and the result was over 700 with E. coli O157:H7, including dozens with acute kidney failure
Continue Reading Publisher’s Platform: Undercooked Burger was a Bad Idea in ’93, it is Stupid in ’15

Officials with the Vermont Department of Health say that two more cases of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) have been linked to ground beef that was served at Worthy Burger in South Royalton, VT. That brings the outbreak total to six confirmed and three probable cases. According to a Wednesday, Sept. 30, news report, state health inspectors found the DNA of Shiga toxin in unopened packaged beef at Worthy Burger and believe that undercooked hamburgers were the source of the contamination. Worthy Burger hamburgerBradley Tompkins, a health surveillance epidemiologist with the Vermont Department of Health, said all those sickened have recovered,
Continue Reading Update: Six Vermont E. Coli Cases Being Linked to Undercooked Ground Beef

In case you missed it, here are some of the top food safety stories from last week: PCA Sentencing: Stewart Parnell, former CEO of the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), was sentenced to 28 years in prison on Sept. 21. His peanut-broker brother, Michael Parnell, got 20 years, and former PCA Quality Assurance Manager Mary Wilkerson got five years. Those are the most severe penalties ever handed down in a U.S. food safety criminal case. All three plan to appeal. Spreading Salmonella? Several recent Salmonella cases have been linked to the Washington, D.C., Fig & Olive restaurant, and
Continue Reading ICYMI: In Case You Missed It