All fields are required
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted an update on the active Salmonella outbreak that has sickened 16 people and hospitalized 6 on July 25, 2023. No recall has been initiated, but significant overlapping patient information has investigators looking at a narrow search.
Ground beef. Specifically, 80% lean ground beef. Here is what we know about this Ground Beef Salmonella Outbreak:
What We Know in the Ground Beef Salmonella Outbreak
So far there have been 16 linked Salmonella illnesses across 4 different states – 1 in Connecticut, 1 in Massachusetts, 5 in New York, and 9 in New Jersey. There have been 6 patients sick enough to require hospitalization, and no reported deaths so far in connection with this outbreak.
As with most outbreaks, the actual number of sick people involved is likely much higher than these reported statistics. Several factors affect this discrepancy.
First, most healthy people can recover on their own without medical intervention, so their sample is never obtained and uploaded into the foodborne illness specimen database. Additionally, some of the cases may not be reported at the time of the update. It can take around 3 to 4 weeks for patient samples to be analyzed and uploaded into the database.
People began falling ill as early as April 27, 2023, and a steady trickle of new patients linked to the outbreak have continued on to the last reported date of illness onset of June 16, 2023.
Patient interviews are a key aspect of outbreak investigation. A survey of the foods and drinks consumed as well as where they were obtained and consumed is a starting point to determine where these patients overlap.
Ground beef appeared to the be only common food outbreak patients reported eating.
Specifically, of the 14 people who were available for interview, 9 reported eating ground beef. Every one of the 9 indicated purchasing ground beef from one store in particular – ShopRite. However, different ShopRite locations were indicated. ShopRite stores in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York were all implicated.
The majority (7 out of 9) indicated purchasing 80% lean ground beef products. The other two reported purchasing ShopRite ground beef products but could not recall the type of ground beef.
Patient sample data is initially screened for potential sources of illness. In this case, the patient samples tested positive for Salmonella bacteria, indicating a Salmonella bacterial infection.
Certain test results prompt additional laboratory analysis. In the case of bacterial infection that can cause foodborne illness, this additional testing involves a genetic test that analyzes the DNA fingerprints of bacteria through a method called Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS).
This genetic data is uploaded into the CDC’s PulseNet system. The PulseNet system is a national database that monitors similar strains of bacteria in patient samples. When close or identical genetic matches occur, it is an indicator that those patients may have become sick from the same food source. This signals a red flag for an outbreak investigation.
Outbreak Strain Matches Routine Surveillance Sample
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a branch called the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) that conducts routine sampling of certain food manufacturers.
These samples are screened, not unlike the patient samples. Positive samples are then analyzed for their DNA fingerprints as well. This data is also uploaded to the database for future comparison.
In this case, a routine FSIS ground beef surveillance sample collected from a facility in March 2023 was closely related to the outbreak patient samples.
Ground Beef the Primary Suspect
Matching surveillance sample data, combined with patient food surveys are significant links in this Salmonella outbreak investigation.
Investigators are currently working to identify the source of the ground beef the outbreak patients consumed. In the meantime, the CDC “always advises you to cook ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 °F before eating it.”
Salmonella in Ground Beef
Ground beef is known to be a source of both Escherichia coli and Salmonella infections in people. These germs are naturally occurring in the intestines of people and animals.
Animals often do not show any signs of illness when infected with these bad bacteria. Even some strains of bacteria are commonly found in the human intestinal tract.
The problem comes when the harmful strains of these bacteria become spread through food, water, food preparation surfaces, and unwashed hands. Eating raw or undercooked ground beef and contaminated food or surfaces can make you sick.
Prevention is Key!
Until a specific source is identified, and a recall announced, it is a good idea to brush up on your ground beef safety tips. Prevention is the first step to avoiding foodborne illness.
You should always assume that all raw meat is potentially contaminated with harmful bacteria. This doesn’t mean you should shun all meat. The vegetarian lifestyle has its own foodborne risks.
No. It just means that you should make extra effort to be mindful of certain steps that can make handling and consuming ground beef more safely.
Keep it Clean
Wash anything that comes in contact with ground beef. Use soap and water before using them to prepare other foods. This includes any bowls, tray, utensils, or surfaces.
Also, wash your hands. Be sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soapy water after preparing raw ground beef before touching other kitchen items or eating/drinking.
Keep it Separate
Avoid cross-contamination when shopping for and storing raw ground beef. Keep it separate from other foods in the shopping cart and grocery bags. Always keep raw ground beef away from foods that will not be cooked. Keep ground beef contained in the refrigerator when you get home. Store it in a container or a seal, leakproof bag on the lowest shelf in the fridge or freezer.
Cooking ground beef to an appropriate internal temperature is key to kill any lurking bacteria. Do not eat raw or undercooked ground beef. That is just a recipe for disaster.
Do not rely on visual cues or sense of touch to determine “done-ness.” Always use a food thermometer to verify. Insert the food thermometer into the thickest part of the meat to accurately measure. Freshly cooked ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 °F; leftovers should be heated to an internal temperature of 165 °F.
The CDC recommends that raw ground beef that has been refrigerated be used or frozen within 1 or 2 days of grinding.
Cooked ground beef should be refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours of cooking. This shortens to 1 hour if ambient temperature is above 90 °F.
When you are ready to thaw frozen ground beef, do so in the refrigerator. Not on the counter. Keep the ground beef at refrigeration temperatures to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
Symptoms of Salmonella infection usually include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. These symptoms can begin anywhere from 6 hours to 6 days after exposure. Most people recover without the need for medical treatment within 4 to 7 days, though certain groups of people may experience more severe illness often requiring medical intervention or even hospitalization. Children under 5 years, adults over 65 years, and those with a weakened immune system are at the highest risk.
Seek medical attention right away if your Salmonella symptoms are more severe. This includes situations where you have diarrhea and a fever higher than 102 °F or persistent diarrhea that is not improving for more than 3 days. If you have bloody diarrhea or vomiting so much that you cannot keep liquids down, seek medical attention. Signs of dehydration also warrant medical attention. This includes reduced urine output, dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing.
Get Help in this Ground Beef Salmonella Outbreak
If you have been sickened with Salmonella as a result of consuming ground beef in thie Ground Beef Salmonella Outbreak, you have a lot to deal with. Medical bills, lost wages, caring for sick loved ones. This all creates a burden.
The experienced Salmonella lawyers at The Lange Law Firm, PLLC can help you navigate this daunting experience. Reach out to have your questions answered by someone trained to help you in your time of need – by phone at (833) 330-3663 or emailing here for a free consultation.