There was good news this last week concerning E. Coli and beef through the form of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement.

On October 19, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC) announced that they had concluded the investigation of E. coli poisonings linked to meat products from Adams Farm. The outbreak sickened 11 people in several states, including West Virginia with 1 case, Virginia with 1 case, Connecticut with 2 cases, Massachusetts with 5 cases, and Pennsylvania with 2 cases. This means that the outbreak has added 4 cases of illness since the initial announcement of the outbreak investigation in late September. Out of the 11 people sickened, 7 required hospitalization because of their illness. There was also one report of hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is a serious potential effect of E. coli poisoning. There were no deaths reported as a result of this outbreak. The CDC investigation revealed that all cases of illnesses began between June 27 and September 10, 2016, although the large majority of the cases linked to this outbreak began in September 2016. People sickened in the outbreak ranged in age between 1 and 74 years, while the median age was determined to be 32.

The CDC, in accordance with state and local health officials, conducted an epidemiological, traceback, and laboratory investigation that tried to narrow down the source of the outbreak, as well as to find other cases of illness. Out of the 11 people sickened in the outbreak, 7 people were interviewed in an effort to find a common food item between them. All 7 people reported eating ground beef in the week prior to their illness, and 6 of those people were able to remember that the ground beef had come from Adams Farm Slaughterhouse. Samples of bacteria were also taken from ill people in order to test them and add them to the PulseNet system, which allows investigators to track outbreaks more easily. The Connecticut Department of Health was then able to take samples from leftover ground beef produced by Adams Farms. Laboratory testing not only revealed that the sample contained E. coli bacteria, but the strain of bacteria found in the sample was genetically similar to the bacteria found in ill people.

This information would eventually lead to a recall of products from Adams Farm Slaughterhouse. The recall came on September 24, 2016, and included a large variety of meat products. Products impacted by the recall were made from animals slaughtered on July 15, 25, 27 and August 3, 8, 10, 11, 17, 24, and 26. The products were packaged between July 21 and September 22, 2016, and were shipped to farmers’ markets, restaurants, and various retail locations throughout the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. These retailers may have shipped the products to neighboring states. Products subject to recall are labeled with the establishment number 5497, and this can be found inside the USDA mark of inspection. There were a variety of products recalled, including whole beef carcasses, boneless rib-eye steaks, sirloin strip steak, tenderloin steak, sirloin steak, shoulder roast, ground beef, ground beef patties, beef brisket, veal whole carcass, ground veal, bison cuts, bison steak, ground bison, bison brisket, and many others. A full list of recalled products can be found here.

Even though the CDC has concluded their investigation, that does not mean that there is zero chance of more people becoming ill. The products linked to this recall and outbreak may still be in the freezers of consumers of restaurants. The CDC recommends that anyone who has purchased meat products from Adams Farm in recent months check to see if their products were listed under the recall. It is paramount that consumers and restaurants get rid of any recalled meats to prevent consumption. Even if prepared properly and cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, the recalled meats can still cause an E. coli infection.

E. coli is a family of bacteria found in most environments. While most E. coli strains are harmless, or even beneficial, to humans, some E. coli strains produce toxins that cause illness. The most common form of pathogenic E. coli is Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or STEC. Shiga toxin-producing bacteria are the cause of this outbreak. These bacteria most commonly contaminate items such as beef, other meats, raw milk, apple cider, and cheese made with raw milk. E. coli bacteria have also been known to contaminate fruits, vegetables, and water. E. coli infections are one of the most common forms of foodborne illness. The CDC estimates that around 265,000 E. coli infections occur annually in the United States. While E. coli infections can affect people from any age group and background, young children, the elderly, and those with suppressed immune systems are at an increased risk of developing a serious E. coli infection or even hemolytic uremic syndrome.

When someone is exposed to pathogenic E. Coli bacteria via contaminated food or water, they can expect to see symptoms within an average of 3 or 4 days. Most of the time, the bacteria could produce symptoms as early as one day or as late as ten days after the initial exposure. Symptoms of E. coli poisoning can vary, but most of the time they include vomiting, fever, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Doctors may test to confirm the presence of E. coli, but in most cases the best treatment for E. coli is rest and hydration. In a majority of instances an E. coli infection will subside on its own within a week. However, some cases of E. coli infection can be life threatening.

In about 5 to 10% of E. coli poisoning cases, a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) arises. HUS is a complication that damages red blood cells. These damaged cells undergo a filtration process when they pass through the kidneys. Filtering these HUS-affected blood cells and removing them from the bloodstream can cause damage to the kidneys, and could even lead to kidney failure. HUS can cause other symptoms, including decreased frequency of urination, loss of color in the eyes and cheeks, and fatigue. If you or a loved one begins to show the symptoms of E. coli poisoning or HUS, contact a medical professional.