Georgia E. Coli Illnesses Linked to Nebraska Beef Recall

The widening cluster of E. coli O157:H7 infections in Georgia may be linked to an outbreak E. coli illnesses in Ohio and Michigan. The Moultrie Observer and WALB report that preliminary testing has linked the Georgia cases to the 41 in Ohio and Michigan, which have been traced back to beef products from Nebraska Beef Ltd. of Omaha.

E. coli infections began showing up in central Ohio in mid-June, paralleled by a sharp increase in E. coli cases in Michigan. By June 20, officials had genetically linked many of the Ohio and Michigan cases; the days that followed, the outbreak was traced to ground beef from Kroger stores. With illnesses nearing 30, Kroger initiated a voluntary recall on June 25. On June 30, FSIS announced that the tainted meat had been traced back to Nebraska Beef Products, and a recall of 531,707 pounds of ground beef products was initiated. On July 2, the Kroger recall widened to 20 states. On July 3, the Nebraska Beef recall was widened to include 5.3 million pounds. Georgia is not on the Kroger recall list, but is part of the Nebraska Beef recall.

Nebraska Beef Ltd. is already enmeshed in lawsuits stemming from tainted meat. In 2006, seventeen people were infected with E. coli O157:H7 after eating Nebraska Beef products prepared at a church dinner; one woman died. Nebraska Beef responded by suing the church. A lawsuit has just been filed on behalf of an Ohio resident who became ill from eating Nebraska Beef products in the recent outbreak there. “Nebraska Beef needs to be held responsible for putting meat into the market that is contaminated with animal feces and E. coli,” said food borne illness attorney William Marler.

Escherichia coli (E. coli) are members of a large group of bacterial germs that inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and other warm-blooded animals. Most strains—or serotypes—of E. coli do not cause disease in humans, but the toxic serotypes can cause serious illness and even death. E. coli is often contracted by consuming food or beverage that has been contaminated by animal (especially cattle) manure.