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Massive beef recall linked to antibiotic-resistant salmonella outbreak

By Rory Harrington , 06-Aug-2009
Last updated on 06-Aug-2009 at 13:49 GMT

California firm Beef Packers Inc has recalled over 800,000 pounds of ground beef linked to an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant salmonella that has sickened people across nine states.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued the alert yesterday for a range of the company’s ground beef products processed between June 5-23 that were sent to retail distribution centres in Arizona, California, Colorado and Utah. The 825,769 pounds (375,349 kg) of meat had been repackaged into consumer-size amounts and sold under different retail brand names. Consumers were warned to check with local retailer to find out if they were at risk.

Nine states hit

The US authorities said it had raised the alarm after being contacted by Colorado health officials about an ongoing investigation into an outbreak of Salmonella Newport.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) announced last week that it was involved in a nationwide investigation with the USDA and other state authorities to investigate cases of salmonella infections that were “resistant to several commonly used antibiotics”.

While reports of illnesses have come from nine states, the majority of those affected were in Colorado – with ground beef pin-pointed as the most likely cause for the 21 people sickened in the state, said the CDPHE.

Second outbreak in a month

The body said it was the second major salmonella outbreak in the state in a month and that both incidences had been linked to ground beef. It cautioned that because it takes up to two weeks for illnesses to be reported to the state health department, further tainted beef could still be on sale.

Last week’s suspicions that ground beef was at the centre of the contamination were confirmed yesterday following epidemiological and trace-back investigations conducted by Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) and CDPHE.

USDA officials also confirmed that the illnesses had been linked through the epidemiological investigation by their uncommon pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern found in PulseNet, a national network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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