Michigan's Many E. coli Cases Linked to Ground Beef

Contact: James McCurtis, Jr. (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

June 24, 2008

Lansing - The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is issuing a public health alert due to illnesses from E. coli associated with ground beef. More than half of the Michigan patients report purchasing and consuming ground beef from Kroger Food Stores. Product traceback is in progress and additional retailers and outlets may be identified. MDCH has confirmed 15 E. coli cases that are genetically linked and 10 of those cases are hospitalized.

"Our top priority at the Michigan Department of Community Health is to protect the public," said Dr. Gregory Holzman, chief medical executive for MDCH. "Now that it is summertime and many people are having cook-outs, I strongly urge our residents to thoroughly cook their hamburgers. We want to ensure that the public's health and well-being is protected."

"Kroger is fully cooperating with state and federal investigators," said Don Koivisto, Michigan Department of Agriculture Director. "It's critical that consumers follow safe food practices to reduce the risk of foodborne illness such as cooking your meat thoroughly using a food thermometer to determine proper internal temperature."

The 15 genetically linked cases, E. coli O157, are present in seven Michigan counties including Eaton (1), Macomb (2), Washtenaw (4), Saginaw (1), Genesee (1), Wayne (3) and Oakland (3). Reported E. coli patients became ill between May 31 and June 8. Additionally, individuals in Ohio also have been identified with the same genetic strain of E. coli O157. The confirmed Ohio and Michigan cases have been linked both epidemiologically and genetically to this outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The symptoms of STEC infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually is not very high (less than 101˚F/less than 38.5˚C). Most people get better within 5-7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.

Keep your cookouts and picnics safe by following these basic food safety guidelines provided by the Partnership for Food Safety Education:

- Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.

- Always marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter or outdoors. Don't use sauce that was used to marinate raw meat or poultry on cooked food. Boil used marinade before applying to cooked food.

- If you partially cook food in the microwave, oven or stove to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before the food goes on the hot grill.

- When it's time to cook the food, cook it to a safe internal temperature. Use a food thermometer to be sure.

o Beef, veal and lamb steaks and roasts: 145 °F for medium rare, 160 °F for medium, and 170 °F for well done.

o Ground pork and ground beef: 160 °F.

o Poultry: to at least 165 °F.

o Fin fish: 145 °F or until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.

o Shrimp, lobster and crabs: The meat should be pearly and opaque.

o Clams, oysters and mussels: Until the shells are open.

- Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs. Be sure to have on hand plenty of clean utensils and platters.

For additional information on proper food safety practices, visit MDA's Web site at www.michigan.gov/foodsafety. For additional information, visit www.usda.gov or www.cdc.gov and search for food safety or E. coli. Persons who believer they have signs or symptoms of foodborne illness should consult a healthcare provider.