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Published: Tuesday, 5/20/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

1.8M POUNDS AFFECTED

Local E. coli cases linked to beef recall

BY FEDERICO MARTINEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Grossman Grossman
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Three Lucas County residents have been diagnosed with a strain of E. coli linked to contaminated Michigan meat, while a fourth county resident, a 17-year-old male, is suspected of also having the same strain and is undergoing tests.

The cases have been connected to an E. coli outbreak that has affected 11 people, four from Ohio and seven from Michigan, Dr. David Grossman, health commissioner of the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, said during a news conference at the health department on Monday.

“This bacteria is particularly dangerous,” Dr. Grossman said. “It causes severe kidney disease in kids.”

The infection is a rare type of E. coli known as hemolytic-uremic syndrome, a disorder that usually occurs when an infection in the digestive system produces toxic substances that destroy red blood cells and can cause severe, even permanent kidney damage.

AT A GLANCE

■ Consumers with questions can contact Wolverine Packing Co. at 262-563-5118 for details.

■ Consumers with food safety questions can contact “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov.

■ The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

It is also dangerous to otherwise healthy adults who, if not treated early enough, could die or “be put on dialysis the rest of their lives,” Dr. Grossman said.

Health officials would not release the names of the Lucas County residents affected, but did disclose their ages: 19, 23, and 42. The 19 and 23-year-old ate at the same restaurant, which health officials have visited and investigated. Officials aren’t sure how the 42-year-old was infected.

Local health officials would not release the name of the establishment, but did confirm that it was a “sit-down type of restaurant” located in Toledo.

“We didn’t find anything; there were no violations,” Dr. Grossman said. “Where it got packaged is where it got contaminated.”

The affected Lucas County residents have all been released from hospitals.

Officials believe the outbreak is under control in Lucas County because the tainted meat was recalled so quickly after the first E. coli reports were known. The first case in Lucas County was reported April 3 in Toledo, Dr. Grossman said. The latest reporting came during early May.

The problem could have been bigger if the meat had been sold to schools or grocery stores, health officials said.

“It could have been much worse,” Dr. Grossman said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating Wolverine Packaging Co., a Detroit-based business that distributed the ground beef believed to be affected. The company on Monday began recalling about 1.8 million pounds of ground beef products it sold for restaurants in four states that may be contaminated with the bacteria.

The products were produced between March 31 and April 18 and were shipped to distributors in Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Missouri. Similar cases of the E. coli outbreak have been reported in Missouri and Massachusetts, according to Dr. Grossman and other reports.

The products bear the establishment number “EST. 2574B” and will have a production date code in the format “Packing Nos: MM DD 14” between “03 31 14” and “04 18 14.”

Officials with Wolverine Packing Co., the company that issued the recall, were not immediately available for comment.

Federal officials were alerted May 12 and have been working with the CDC and local health officials.

Because the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development doesn’t perform meat inspection or investigations, the case has been turned over to federal health officials, said Jennifer Holton, MDARD spokesman.

She said restaurants that may have served the tainted meat are expected to destroy the meat or contact the distributor for return.

Information from The Blade’s news services was used in this report.

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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