September 14, 2001
CONTAMINATED GROUND BEEF LINKED TO GROCERY STORE
SPRINGFIELD, IL Contaminated ground beef purchased at a Dominicks Finer Foods store in Oak Lawn has been linked to an outbreak of E. coli 0157:H7 in the Chicago area in July and August and has prompted a renewed warning to consumers to thoroughly cook ground beef.
Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director, said sophisticated genetic (DNA) testing confirmed this week that the E. coli bacteria that made a Chicago woman ill is the same organism that was found in a sample of ground beef purchased July 12 at Dominicks Finer Foods at 87th and Cicero in Oak Lawn. Ground beef bought at the store on July 12 and 13 should be considered contaminated.
While we have been able to link a number of E. coli cases to eating ground beef, we do not have conclusive evidence that pinpoints the source, Dr. Lumpkin said. Consumers who purchased ground beef in the Chicago area between July 12 and July 31 and still have the product in their freezers should be alert to the increased risk. The hamburger should either be thoroughly cooked or discarded.
Dr. Lumpkin said cooking ground beef to at least 160 degrees will eliminate any risk of E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria. A digital or dial instant-read thermometer should be used, but persons who do not have a thermometer can decrease their risk of illness by not eating ground beef patties that are still pink in the middle.
Last month the Illinois Department of Public Health used DNA testing to match the E. coli organism found in a Cook County child who was ill with that found in and ground beef his mother purchased July 12 at Dominicks Finer Foods in Glenview. In mid August, Dominicks voluntarily recalled all ground beef sold at that store on July 12 and 13.
Dr. Lumpkin said that a total of 17 persons have E. coli with the same genetic makeup, but the Department is unable to say with complete certainty where all purchased their ground beef. Some indicated they shopped at just one store, while others bought ground beef at more than one grocery store or consumed beef from an unknown source. Seven of these persons required hospitalization.
There were 46 cases of E. coli 0157:H7 reported in the Chicago metropolitan area between July 1 and mid-August, 17 of whom had the same E. coli organism and most likely were infected by the same source.
Of the genetically matched cases, 13 were from Cook County, and one each from Lake, Will, Kane and Winnebago counties. The person from Winnebago County worked in the Chicago area.
E. coli 0157:H7 causes severe, often bloody diarrhea and painful abdominal cramps. In some persons, particularly children younger than 5 years of age and the elderly, the infection can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can result in stroke, seizures, kidney disease and death.
The organism can be found in the intestines of cattle and, when the animals are slaughtered, the meat can be contaminated by intestinal contents. When the meat is ground, fecal organisms can be mixed throughout the ground beef. These bacteria can survive freezing and cooking if the temperature does not reach 160 degrees. Work surfaces that come in contact with raw ground beef also should be thoroughly cleaned before using again.
The bacteria are present in the stools of infected persons and can be passed from one person to another if hygiene and hand washing habits are inadequate.
of Public Health
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Springfield, Illinois 62761
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