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Multi-state E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak Linked to Beef in Massachusetts

SEP 28, 2016 | JENINA PELLEGREN
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating a multi-state outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7. Traceback, laboratory evidence, and epidemiological reports suggested that the outbreak is linked to beef products produced by Adam’s Farm Slaughterhouse in Athol, Massachusetts. Test results showed the outbreak strain in samples of ground beef. Adam’s Farm recalled all beef, veal, and bison products on September 24, 2016, due to the potential contamination.

Processing and packaging dates include July 15, 25, 27, 2016 and August 3, 8, 10, 11, 17, 24, 26, 2016. Products processed and packed on various dates between July 21 and September 22, 2016 may also be contaminated. Items subject to the recall have the establishment number 5497, “EST. 5497,” inside the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) mark of inspection. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has compiled a complete list of all the products currently involved in the recall.

Items were shipped to a variety of restaurants, farmers’ markets, and retail locations across Massachusetts, Connecticut, and eastern New York. According to the CDC, it is unclear yet whether products were shipped to other states but officials say that it is possible. The FDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is working in conjunction with public health partners to notify and update consumers. Officials say there is concern that products contaminated with the E. Coli O157:H7 strain could currently be in consumers' freezers.

Investigations of this STEC O157:H7 outbreak will be ongoing as the CDC works with state and local public health officials and continues laboratory surveillance through PulseNet. The PulseNet system is designed to compare bacteria of “DNA fingerprints” to aid in identifying similar, yet currently unidentified, clusters of outbreak. Information is entered into an electronic database and sent to the CDC for analysis. The goal is to provide real-time surveillance and help epidemiologists investigate further illnesses. This allows investigators to follow up in interviews regarding what they consumed prior to becoming ill.  

To date, two cases in Massachusetts, three cases in Connecticut, and one case each in Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, have been reported. In total, seven cases of illness have been linked to this STEC O157:H7 strain. Of these cases, five people were hospitalized. There have been no deaths or cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome reported. Public health professionals warn: illnesses that occurred after September 8, 2016 may have yet to be reported considering that the average time between onset and illness is an average of between 2–3 weeks.

In a statement via their website, Adam’s Farm said, “We are working with the USDA and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to ensure that all product that could be contaminated is withdrawn from sale to protect our customers and those that buy from our customers.” They continued, “While we are very concerned over the USDA’s over-reaction and its impact on our customers, we have fully cooperated with their requirements but want our customers to be aware that we stand behind all of our products and will continue to stand behind all of our farmer customers and their consumers.”
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