More than 150,000 pounds of ground beef products have been recalled in connection with an E. coli outbreak that has sickened at least 177 people in 10 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced.
The outbreak originally stumped CDC investigators, who were initially unable to point to a food item, grocery store or restaurant chain that may have caused the 72 initial illnesses in five states. A week later, with nearly 40 more people sick in six states, the agency announced that ground beef might be the culprit.
In the latest update, the CDC said two ground beef suppliers — Illinois’ Grant Park Packing and Georgia’s K2D Foods (also known as Colorado Premium Foods) — recalled more than 53,000 and 113,000 pounds of meat, respectively, for fear that they may have been tainted by E. coli bacteria. Consumers and restaurants should not eat or serve products included in these recalls, the CDC says.
But the agency also warned that ill people sickened by the outbreak — which is one of the largest multi-state E. Coli outbreaks in decades — ate ground beef from many sources, and investigators continue to look for products that may be contaminated. Illnesses have been reported in Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Indiana, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota and Mississippi, and 21 people have been hospitalized. No deaths or major complications have been reported.
The CDC is not recommending that consumers avoid all ground beef, according to the latest statement, but the agency emphasized the importance of handling and cooking raw meat safely. Ground beef should be cooked to at least 160 degrees to reduce the risk of transmitting food-borne illness, and cooks should wash their hands and any surfaces and kitchen tools that come into contact with raw meat. Raw beef should also be refrigerated or frozen within two hours of purchase, the CDC says.
Many types of E. coli bacteria do not cause serious illness. But exposure to some strains can result in symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramping or vomiting, the Mayo Clinic says. The majority of infected people recover on their own within a week, but serious cases — especially those involving children and the elderly — can result in a life-threatening kidney disease.