An Illinois-based meat producer has recalled nearly 7,000 pounds of potentially contaminated ground beef products, including ready-made burger patties, due to concerns over E. coli contamination.
Valley Meats, a beef and pork wholesaler located in Coal Valley, issued the voluntary recall on Sunday after samples tested positive for the potentially deadly Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced the recall and urged restaurants, retailers and consumers to check their inventories.
“FSIS is concerned that some product may be in institutional or restaurant refrigerators or freezers,” the agency said in a statement. “Restaurants and institutions that have purchased these products are urged not to serve them and should throw the products away or return them to the place of purchase.”
The recalled items were shipped to distributors in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Michigan between December 22 and January 1. They include 12- and 16-pound boxes of Angus beef patties, 13.5-, 24- and 28-pound bulk boxes of patties, and 20- and 40-pound cases of ground beef. All have the establishment number “EST. 612” inside the USDA mark of inspection and were produced on December 22, 2022.
E. coli contamination was discovered after the company submitted samples for microbial testing at an external laboratory. There have been no confirmed reports of illness associated with consumption of these products so far.
Certain strains of Escherichia coli or E. coli can produce Shiga toxins, which inhibit protein synthesis in the body and cause severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. They typically take 2–8 days to cause symptoms after ingesting contaminated food or water. Around 5–10% of patients can go on to develop a life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which leads to kidney failure and brain damage.
Young children and elderly adults are most susceptible, along with immunocompromised individuals. The infection is treated through supportive care but antibiotics are not recommended as they can increase the chances of HUS.
Last year, an E. coli outbreak linked to contaminated romaine lettuce grown in California sickened over 200 people across over 30 states. Such foodborne outbreaks involving leafy greens, beef and other products are not uncommon in the U.S. Proper handling, cooking and sanitation are crucial to prevent bacteria from spreading through the food supply.
“Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them,” the FSIS said. “These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.”
Restaurant operators and foodservice establishments are advised to check their inventories, shelves, storage coolers and freezers to ensure none of the affected products are served or sold.
Retailers have also been notified to pull the recalled beef from store shelves and inventory immediately. Consumers can contact the Valley Meats customer service line with questions or to receive a refund.
The FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to ensure companies are properly removing recalled products from commerce. Public health alerts will be updated as more information becomes available.
Preventing Foodborne Illness
Foodborne pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella can contaminate foods at any point from farm to fork. The FSIS estimates around 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne diseases each year, leading to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
Proper cooking temperatures, hand washing, avoiding cross-contamination and monitoring expiry dates are key to prevent outbreaks. Ground beef should always be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160°F to kill harmful germs.
Regular cleaning of prep surfaces and utensils is also essential to kill bacteria. Separate raw meats from other foods during shopping, storage and preparation. Never place cooked foods back on plates or surfaces that previously held raw meat.
Refrigerate perishable foods as soon as possible, within two hours of purchasing or preparing. Do not thaw frozen foods at room temperature. Know when to toss expired, spoiled or moldy produce and leftovers. At restaurants, check inspection scores and avoid delis or buffets with lax standards.
Those more vulnerable to food poisoning, including children, pregnant women and seniors, should take extra care. Reheating leftovers until steaming hot, washing hands frequently and being vigilant about food safety can go a long way in prevention.
Seek medical attention if experiencing severe or bloody diarrhea, fever higher than 102°F, frequent vomiting, signs of dehydration, or symptoms lasting longer than 3 days. Notify your doctor of potential exposures so stool cultures can be ordered to diagnose the exact pathogen.
With foodborne diseases on the rise, consumers must stay informed about recalls of contaminated products. Check the FSIS website and sign up for email alerts on public health alerts in your state. Report suspected food poisoning incidents to your local health department.
Following safe food handling practices at home and calling on restaurants and food companies to meet the highest safety standards will help create a more secure food system for all.