News Feature | May 20, 2014

Multi-State E. Coli Outbreak Prompts FSIS Class I Recall

By Laurel Maloy, contributing writer, Food Online

E. Coli Outbreak

Michigan-based meat producer has voluntarily recalled almost two million pounds of ground beef after 11 people in four states have become ill

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), five people in MI, four in OH, and one each in MA and MO have been infected with Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 (STEC O157:H7). More than half of those infected have been hospitalized, though no deaths have occurred as a result to date. Investigations conducted at the local, state, and federal levels quickly traced the contamination back to Wolverine Packing of Detroit, MI. The dates for onset of the illnesses range from Apr 22 to May 2, 2014. The most current information on the outbreak from the CDC is as of May 16, with formal publication and Wolverine Packing announcing the recall on May 19.

Wolverine Packing distributes bulk and portion-control products to the food service and retail industry nationwide, focusing on the East, Midwest, and Southeastern regions, according to the company's website. Its portion control division, steak cutting division, and small or re-box beef divisions provide private-label products, making it more difficult to identify products being recalled. Wolverine also advertises that retail distributors can offer products in bulk form to increase sales. For these reasons, it is imperative that retailers and restaurant owners carefully inventory for ground beef products produced between March 31 and Apr 18, 2014.

The packages subject to recall will bear the establishment number "EST. 2574B" and will have a production date code in this format: Packing Nos: MM DD 14" between "03 31 14" and "04 18 14. According to the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), none of this product was distributed to the Department of Defense (DOD), the National School Lunch Program, or via catalog or internet sales. The entire list of recalled products, all 97 pages, can be viewed here.

Is your company prepared for a recall?

A Class I Recall, as defined by FSIS, is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that use of the affected product will cause "serious, adverse health consequences, or death." Those most at risk of this deadly bacterium resulting in life-threatening kidney failure, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) are children under five years of age and older adults, though people of any age are susceptible.

Consumers can call (800) 521-1390 to speak to a representative at Wolverine Packing. Anyone can report a concern about foodborne illnesses, tainted, or adulterated food products by filling out an Electronic Consumer Complaint Reporting Form.  However, anyone who becomes ill and suspects a foodborne illness should seek medical attention first and provide as much information as possible to the attending physicians. Quick identification of the source is vital for preventing a catastrophic outbreak, serious illness, and death.