A recall of nearly 2 million pounds of ground beef due to a potentially deadly strain of E.coli has expanded to include distributors to retailers and restaurants nationwide. But unfortunately, federal officials won't tell us which ones. (Please, please not In-N-Out.)
Food Safety and Inspection Service officials aren't required to say which “retail establishments,” restaurants or fast food joints served the tainted hamburger linked to the largest recall of its kind in six years. They'll only tell us that the meat was produced by Detroit's Wolverine Packing Co. between March 31 and April 18. The company issued a voluntary recall for 1.8 million pounds of ground beef Monday, proving that you should never let wolverines work in slaughterhouses.
FSIS officials first said that the Angus steak burgers and ground beef patties were sent to just four states, but now they've expanded the recall to at least 12 states, with more very likely to be added.
The ground beef is potentially contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the nastiest strain of the bacteria, which can lead to deadly kidney failure, particularly in children and the elderly. The FSIS ranks this a Class I, “high health risk” recall, which means, “This is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”
As of Monday, 11 illnesses had been reported in four states, including five in Michigan, four in Ohio and one each in Massachusetts and Missouri, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Illnesses began between April 22 and May 2, according to the CDC. At least six people have been hospitalized.
“This strain of E. coli is one of the most hazardous,” Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told NBC News. “It's infrequent that we have a major outbreak from E. coli these days but when it happens, it's very serious, and it can land quite a number of its victims in the hospital.”
Luckily, the beef is past its use-by date, so there shouldn't be any more of it out there. Because, of course, restaurants and burger joints never serve expired meat. For the long list of recalled products, click here.
This is the largest recall of ground beef tied to E. coli O157:H7 since the summer of 2008, when almost 7 million pounds of meat produced by Nebraska Beef were pulled. As many as 79 people were sickened in that outbreak.
The largest ground beef recall in U.S. history was in 1997, when Hudson Foods pulled 25 million pounds of potentially tainted meat, much of it sent to Burger King. That outbreak put Hudson out of business and lead to changes in oversight of the U.S. beef industry because at that time, the FSIS could not force a recall for E.coli. Now they can.