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Buffalo Burgers Ecoli Outbreak

Posted in E. coli,Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls on July 17, 2019

Ecoli O103 and O121 are back in the news with a joint outbreak linked to imported ground bison products. Curious? Here’s what we know about the Buffalo Burgers Ecoli Outbreak:

Outbreak Announcement

Late yesterday, the FDA and the CDC (with the support of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)) announced their collaboration in investigating a “multistate outbreak of E. coli O121 and E. coli O103 illnesses likely linked to ground bison supplied by Northfork Bison Distributions Inc. of Saint-Leonard, Québec, Canada.”

At this time, there are a reported 21 cases in 7 states. Eight of those who are sick have been hospitalized. Thankfully, no cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure, have been reported, and no deaths have been reported.

Thus far, a total of 21 people infected with the outbreak strains of Ecoli O103 (6 people), Ecoli O121 (13 people), or both (2 people) have been reported from 7 states.

 

Table showing the number of ill people arranged by state of residence.
State Ill People
Connecticut 1
Florida 4
Michigan 1
Missouri 1
New Jersey 2
New York 9
Pennsylvania 3
Total 21

 

It is important to know that this outbreak is likely much larger in number. Why? Because illnesses that started after June 22, 2019 may yet be reported. This is due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported — an average of 2 to 4 weeks.

As of now, the dates of those who have confirmed cases became sick from March 18, 2019, to June 18, 2019. According to the CDC, “Ill people range in age from 6 to 79 years, with a median age of 25. Fifty-two percent of ill people are female. Of 17 people with information available, 8 (47%) have been hospitalized.”

The Investigation

In interviews with the local health departments, ill people answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became ill. “Of 9 people with available information, 6 (67%) people reported that they ate or maybe ate ground bison. Ill people ate ground bison in burgers from several different restaurants or prepared ground bison at home.

Regulatory officials collected records from the restaurants where ill people ate ground bison. These records showed that the ground bison produced by Northfork Bison Distributions, Inc., was sold in several restaurants where ill people ate ground bison.”

The investigation is still ongoing and additional traceback is being conducted by the FDA.

Recall Notices

The FDA and CDC state that they analyzed traceback and epidemiological information to determine that ground bison supplied by Northfork Bison Distributions Inc. is the likely source of this outbreak.

With the news breaking of the outbreak, Northfork Bison Distributions, Inc. of Saint-Leonard, Quebec, Canada issued a recall of its ground bison products. The recalled products were produced between February 22, 2019, and April 30, 2019 and sold to distributors as ground bison and bison patties, referred to as Bison Burgers and/or Buffalo Burgers. Recalled ground bison was also sold to retailers in 4-ounce burger patties.

Health officials are concerned that the recalled products may still be present in grocery stores and refrigerators or freezers of consumers and restaurants. These products should be either discarded or returned back to the place of purchase.

About Non-O157 STEC O103 and O121

Ecoli O103 and O121 are rare strains of Ecoli, but produce Shiga-toxins. These toxins can damage the digestive tract, cause HUS, and lead to death, especially in high-risk individuals. HUS is the most common cause of acute kidney injury in children.

Many clinical laboratories do not even test for these strains, since they are much harder to identify than the common STEC O157:H7. This means that the number of ill people can be under-reported. It is important that, if you believe you have Ecoli from eating bison/buffalo, that you ask your doctor to test for these strains.

The Concerns of Children and Other High Risk Individuals with Ecoli Infections

Ecoli infections can affect anyone, regardless of age, health status, or geographic location. Those who are high risk usually have more severe infections. Of those in the highest risk group, children are among those who are most at risk to develop Ecoli infections with severe symptoms and complications.

Ecoli infections can start relatively mildly, usually with:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • watery diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
  • fever (in some cases)

The early onset of HUS is usually apparent with its own group of additional symptoms. These can include:

  • decreased urination,
  • pallor (an unhealthy pale appearance to the skin),
  • fatigue and irritability,
  • confusion, seizures,
  • high blood pressure,
  • unexplained bruising,
  • bleeding from the nose and/or mouth, and
  • edema (swelling of the hands, feet, face, or entire body).

According to the CDC, “Around 5–10% of those who are diagnosed with E. coli O157 infection develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).”

Sadly, HUS is not the only complication of a STEC Ecoli infections. Ecoli infections can also potentially cause central nervous systems issues (including brain swelling and/or stroke), intestinal issues (like colitis), and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Early treatment and medical care may be able to reduce the risk of severe illness and potential long-term complications.

Recommendations

The health agencies recommend that consumers not eat products prepared using recalled ground bison (including bison burgers) sold under the Northfork Bison label. This includes Bison Burgers sold to retailers in 4 x 4-ounce packages with expiration dates through October 8, 2020.

The CDC is a little more stringent in its recommendations. They mention, “Consumers should not eat and restaurants and retailers should not sell or serve, recalled ground bison products.

The FDA has general advice on keeping safe during this Buffalo Burgers Ecoli Outbreak, as follows:

  • “People should consult their healthcare provider if they suspect that they have developed symptoms that resemble a E. coli infection.
  • Consumers should follow these steps for preventing foodborne illness:
    • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops, and utensils that may have contacted contaminated foods; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
    • Wash and sanitize surfaces used to serve or store potentially contaminated products.
    • Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
    • People with pets should take special care to avoid cross-contamination when preparing their pet’s food. Be sure to pick up and thoroughly wash food dishes as soon as pets are done eating, and prevent children, the elderly, and any other people with weak immune systems from handling or being exposed to the food or pets that have eaten potentially contaminated food.”

When Should You Contact Your Doctor?

If you have consumed any of the recalled buffalo/ bison products and have experienced any of the symptoms listed above, it is a good idea to reach out to your healthcare provider, even if your symptoms are mild.

You should contact your healthcare provider if you experience diarrhea lasting for more than 3 days or vomit so much that you cannot keep liquids down or pass very little urine.  These are signs of severe dehydration that can result in life-threatening illness.

Due to the range in severity of illness, the CDC and FDA also recommend that people should consult their doctors if they suspect that they have developed symptoms of an Ecoli infection, including HUS. Ecoli can cause severe illness, even in healthy individuals.

The Lange Law Firm –www.MakeFoodSafe.com

Our mission is to help families who have been harmed by contaminated food.  When corporations cause food poisoning or Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks, we use the law to hold them accountable.  The Lange Law Firm is the only law firm in the nation solely focused on representing families in food poisoning lawsuits and Legionnaires disease lawsuits.

If you or your child was infected with Ecoli after eating at Buffalo Burgers and are interested in making a legal claim for compensation, we have an Ecoli lawyer ready to help you.  Call us for a free no obligation legal consultation at (833) 330-3663 or send us an e-mail here.

By: Candess Zona-Mendola, Editor (Non-Lawyer)