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Food Safety News: 19 Ill in 16 States in E. coli Outbreak

The Christmas Eve recall of almost 250,000 pounds of mechanically tenderized steak products is now linked to 19 E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in 16 states and to three restaurant chains--Moe's Southwest Grill, Carino's Italian Grill, and KRM restaurants.

 
Oklahoma-based National Steak and Poultry (NSP) announced last week it was initiating a recall of processed steak products after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) identified a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses.

According to the FSIS release, the outbreak is linked to illness in 6 states: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota, and Washington, but a CDC spokeswoman confirmed this morning that 16 states are reporting E. coli causes tied to the outbreak.

Neither the CDC nor FSIS has released a complete list of states involved in the outbreak.

According to a Food Safety News survey of state public health departments, Colorado has one confirmed case from November, which did not result in hospitalization.  A woman from Washington state fell ill while visiting Nebraska and is now recovering after hospitalization.

Iowa and Kansas health departments each confirmed one illness tied to the outbreak, and South Dakota officials reported two illnesses tied to undisclosed restaurants.  Public health officials in Michigan have yet to confirm the number of illnesses tied to the outbreak, though FSIS confirmed there are illnesses linked to the outbreak in the state.

FSIS also has yet to release a complete list of retail establishments that received the recalled meat.  NSP says it believes the recall was limited to Moes', Carino's, and KRM restaurants.

NSP recalled over 25 different products. According to FSIS, all involved products bear an "EST. 6010T" establishment label and are labeled with packaging dates "10/12/2009," "10/13/2009," "10/14/2009," or "10/21/2009."

Most of the illnesses appear to have occurred later in November.

Mechanically tenderizing, otherwise known as blade- or needle-tenderizing, can drive potentially harmful bacteria to the center of steaks, which may not be cooked to adequate temperatures by consumers or restaurants.  The USDA currently does not require labeling mechanically tenderized steaks.

According to NSP, the recall is the company's first in nearly 30 years of business.

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