Salmonella Beef Foodborne Illness Outbreak Spreads to 11 States

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August 10, 2009. By Ron Simon

Fresno, CA: Health officials have now reported that at least 27 people have fallen ill from a Salmonella Newport foodborne illness outbreak that prompted the recall of more than 412 tons of ground beef. The beef was manufactured by Beef Packers Inc. in Fresno, California, a unit of Minneapolis-based agribusiness giant Cargill, Inc.

So far 21 cases have been identified in Colorado, along with 4 cases in California and 2 in Wyoming. Four people in Colorado have been hospitalized, but all are said to be recovering.

Health officials in eight other states - Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota and Texas -- have also identified persons with salmonella samples matching the outbreak strain of Salmonella Newport. Officials are currently investigating whether these illnesses are linked to the contaminated beef.

A spokesman for beef Packers, Inc. said the recalled meat, which was produced from June 5 to June 23, was shipped to retail outlets in 12 Western states, including Safeway stores, Sam's Club stores and United Grocers stores.

"We are working with retailers to ensure that all of the ground beef subject to the recall has been removed from the meat case," Beef Packers said in a statement.

Salmonella Newport
Salmonella Newport is the third most common salmonella serotype found in the United States, accounting for approximately 9 percent of all salmonella illnesses. The particular strain of Salmonella Newport involved in this outbreak is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics and more frequently results in hospitalization.

Dr David Acheson, a physician and former head of food safety for the Food and Drug Administration, said the Newport serotype is often found in dairy cows, which are typically slaughtered for ground beef when they grow too old to yield milk.
A Cargill spokeswoman declined to comment on the origin of the beef that was recalled.

Salmonella is a common foodborne bacteria that causes acute gastrointestinal illness and can be life-threatening in patients with weakened immune systems, children, and the elderly. But under current food regulations, its presence in food does not trigger an automatic recall. Recalls are mandatory for contamination by the more lethal E. coli bacteria.

This latest salmonella food poisoning outbreak follows a number of recent salmonella outbreaks including those linked to peanut butter, beef, tomatoes, sprouts, and spices that led the U.S. House of Representatives to pass legislation last week to require more inspections and oversight of food manufacturers. It would also give the government new authority to order recalls.



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