Cargill, which recalled almost 30,000 pounds of ground beef in the US this weekend, has been linked to five cases of salmonella.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the Food Safety Inspection Service launched an investigation following a multi-state outbreak of salmonella enteritidis, involving 33 patients from seven states.

Five of these cases have been directly linked to ground beef produced by Cargill and repacked under retailers own-label products.

Last year, Cargill suspended ground turkey production at a US turkey plant in August and September after an investigation linked the site to an outbreak of salmonella heidelberg, affecting dozens of people across 31 states. Of those, one person was reported dead.

More broadly, this fresh outbreak of salmonella in the US again draws unwanted attention to food safety issues in the country.

The outbreak now appears to be largely under control. However, in some ways the recall seems to be closing the stable door after the horse has already bolted: the products included in the recall were already out of date and therefore no longer on shelves. This delay once again raises the issue of whether FSIS's detection and prevention powers are enough to ensure safety down the US supply chain.

In addition, the protein industry will hardly be thrilled by fresh negative press in the midst of the grilling season, having just got over the "pink slime" fiasco.

Show the press release

PENNSYLVANIA FIRM RECALLS GROUND BEEF PRODUCTS
DUE TO POSSIBLE SALMONELLA CONTAMINATION
Cargill Meat Solutions, a Wyalusing, Pa., establishment, is recalling 29,339 pounds of fresh ground beef products that may be contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.  

The products subject to recall, sold wholesale and for further processing:
14 pound chub packages of "Grnd Beef Fine 85/15", packed 3 chubs to approximate 42-pound cases.

The products subject to recall bears the establishment number "EST. 9400" inside the USDA mark of inspection.  While the use-by date has passed and these products are no longer available for retail sale, FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen in consumers' freezers. These products were produced on May 25, 2012, and were shipped to distribution centers in Connecticut, Maine and New York for further distribution.

It is important to note that the above listed products were repackaged into consumer-size packages and sold under different retail brand names. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on FSIS' website at: www.fsis.usda.gov/FSIS_Recalls/Open_Federal_Cases/index.asp.

FSIS became aware of the problem during the course of an ongoing investigation of a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis involving 33 case-patients from 7 states (MA, ME, NH, NY, RI, VA, VT-preliminary data, subject to change). Working in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Vermont Department of Health, New York State Department of Health, and New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets, FSIS was able to link illnesses in five case-patients to the ground beef products produced at this establishment based on epidemiologic and traceback investigations, as well as in-store reviews. Illness onset dates among these five case-patients ranged from June 6, 2012 to June 13, 2012. Two of the five case-patients were hospitalized.  Leftover product with no packaging information collected during the course of this investigation by the Vermont Department of Health tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis with the outbreak strain.  This outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis is drug sensitive, meaning antibiotics can be effective in treating patients who need them.  FSIS is continuing to work with CDC and public health partners on the investigation.
    
Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, especially to those with weak immune systems, such as infants, the elderly, and persons with HIV infection or those undergoing chemotherapy. The most common manifestations of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and vomiting that can last up to seven days. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact a health care provider.

    FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume ground beef that has been cooked to a temperature of 160° F. The only way to confirm that ground beef is cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature.

Consumers who have questions are encouraged to call the company's consumer information line at (888) 812-1646.  Media with questions regarding the recall can contact Michael Martin, the company's media contact, at (316) 291-2126.

Original source: US Department of Agriculture