Monday, May 19, 2014


We were told today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) that there is as much as 1.8 million pounds of ground beef out there somewhere in the United States that should not be eaten or even touched. Why? Because it could be contaminated with one of the very dangerous strains of E.coli bacteria - E. coli O157:H7.

This bacterium can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea, and abdominal cramps two to eight days after you ate the contaminated food. Yes, most people do recover within a week or so, but some (most likely young children and the elderly) can develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and end up in the hospital.

One of the problems with this recall is that we don’t know where the recalled products went. In other words, the distribution list hasn’t yet been given by the Wolverine Packing Company, of Detroit, Michigan, the food company involved, to USDA-FSIS. If you look back on recent recalls, such lists are usually released anywhere from one day to two weeks or more after a recall is announced. Part of the problem seems to be that some companies don’t keep good records. Another could be that they don’t want to lose their clients, so are reluctant to have them told by the government that they have been receiving bad meat.

In this case, the list of products recalled (which is very, very long) does not tell us much. But there are some possible clues. According to Wolverine Packaging, all of the illnesses that are believed to be linked to this bacterium and this company’s products occurred among people who ate undercooked hamburgers at restaurants - not in their homes - in four states - Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio. Reportedly, none of the product was labeled for retail sale in supermarkets and none of it went to the National School Lunch Program. That’s a relief.

Therefore, if you did not eat “rare” or “medium rare” hamburgers in a restaurant (or, fast food chain outlet) in the past month, you can relax. Besides, if you are reading this post, you can’t be dead yet. And, I assume you are more or less out and about. So either you did not eat this contaminated ground meat, ate it in a safely cooked mode (see my previous post), ate portions of it which were not too badly contaminated, or, ate it and got over your case of food poisoning. Congratulations!

However, next time you eat out, you may want to play it safe and ask for your hamburger “well done.” You’ll get to like it after a while. And what’s more, you don’t need to lie awake worrying about food poisoning for several days afterwards!

To your good health,



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