Fresno meatpacker linked to salmonella outbreak
of Article: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/shopping_blog/2009/08/fresno-meat-packer-linked-to-salmonella-outbreak.html
10:36 AM PT, Aug 6 2009
There's another salmonella scare
-- this time with ground beef from a Fresno packinghouse.
The U.S Department of Agriculture said
today that Beef Packers Inc. is recalling
more than 800,000 pounds of ground beef products that may be linked
to an outbreak of salmonella.
The beef was processed between
June 5 and June 23 and has "EST. 31913" printed on the case
code labels. It was sold in stores in California, Arizona, Colorado and
Because the meat was repackaged
into consumer-size packages and sold under different retail brand names,
the agency is urging shoppers to check with their retailer to determine
whether they may have purchased any of the meat. Consumers with
questions about the recall can also call the Beef Packers consumer line
at (877) 872-3635.
The link between the salmonella
outbreak and the ground beef was discovered after a flurry of illnesses
by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which
alerted federal authorities.
This outbreak involves the
Salmonella Newport strain of the disease, which is resistant to many
commonly prescribed drugs and results in more frequent hospitalizations,
Salmonella is among the most
common food-borne illnesses and can be life-threatening, especially to
those with weak immune systems, including infants, the elderly, and
persons with HIV infection or undergoing chemotherapy. It typically
causes diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours of
infection. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and
vomiting that can last up to seven days.
It sometimes appears in food that
is typically eaten raw, such as tomatoes, peppers and melons. Just two
weeks ago a Salinas company recalled romaine lettuce because it was
linked to the illness. A long-running outbreak linked to peanuts earlier
this year killed at least nine people.
The steady drumbeat of food-borne
illness outbreaks prompted the House of Representatives to pass food
safety legislation last week. The bill would require more government
inspections and oversight of food manufacturers and give the Food and
Drug Administration new authority to order recalls. (The USDA oversees
It also would require the
FDA to develop a system for better tracing food-borne illnesses, and
allow the government to penalize those who violate the law. Food
companies would be required to create detailed food safety plans. A
similar bill awaits action in the Senate.
Regulators probably jumped on the beef
case out of concern for antibiotic resistant strains of salmonella, said
William Marler, a Seattle attorney and food safety expert who specializes
in food-borne illness litigation.
Unlike the often lethal food-borne
bacterium E. coli 0157:H7, salmonella is not considered an “adulterant”
in federal food regulations and does not trigger an automatic recall,
“I commend the company for recalling the beef because
legally, they would be on strong ground not to do so,” he said.
The pathogens are treated
differently because it takes only a small about of E. coli – just 50
organisms to infect a person – where it typically takes millions of
salmonella bacteria to trigger an illness, Marler said.
Nonetheless, Marler would like to see regulation
expanded to include salmonella and other pathogens that cause serious
“I think that anything that can poison or kill a
person should be listed as an adulterant,” he said.
Thorough cooking and proper meat
handling practices can prevent infections from contaminated beef and
Some precautions include
washing hands with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds both before
and after handling raw meat and poultry. Cooks should prevent raw meat,
fish and poultry from touching other food such as fruit and vegetables
that will be served raw. And they should make sure that dishes and
utensils used to prepare meats also aren't used for other raw foods
unless they are washed with hot soapy water between use.
The agency also suggests using
one set of cutting boards for raw meat, poultry and egg products and a
different set for preparing foods that will be served without
cooking. Beef and pork should be cooked to an internal temperature
of 160°. Poultry needs to go to 165°. A good food thermometer is helpful
for checking the internal temperatures of meat.
It's also important to get
raw meat and poultry into the refrigerator within two hours after
purchase and even faster on hot days.
-- Jerry Hirsch