Hannaford Hamburger US Salmonella Outbreak – An Update

Updated December 22, 2011

On December 20th, CDC reported that 16 people in Hawaii (1), Kentucky (1), Massachusetts (1), Maine (4), New Hampshire (4), New York (4), and Vermont (1) have been infected with the relatively uncommon outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. Illnesses began on or after October 8, 2011, with the most recent illness onset reported on or about December 3rd.

Most of the illnesses are linked to the consumption of store-ground hamburger meat purchased from Hannaford supermarkets. Hannaford is a regional chain located in the northeast USA, with stores throughout Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. The implicated ground beef packages were purchased between October 12th and November 20th.

Given the geographic location of Hannaford’s stores, it’s logical that the Northeastern states should bear the brunt of this outbreak. But what about the cases in Kentucky and Hawaii?

I checked with the departments of health for both states. Other than the genetic similarity between the strains of Salmonella Typhimurium recovered from outbreak patients, there is nothing that connects either the Hawaii or the Kentucky victim to this outbreak. Neither one reported traveling to the US Northeast prior to becoming ill. And, while the Kentucky case is still being investigated, neither victim reported any obvious link to the outbreak, such as consuming ground beef in the week before becoming ill.

Epidemiologists have nightmares like this!

Of course, the explanation may be very simple. PFGE, the genetic profiling used as a first stage “genetic fingerprint” in outbreak investigations is not infallible. CDC has been working with a second genetic profiling tool, which has, in some recent outbreaks, found that a few apparently connected illnesses actually were due to different strains of the same microbe. It’s also possible that some other common link will be found, or that the Kentucky and Hawaii cases will prove to be simply coincidental.

Regardless of the explanation for the Kentucky and Hawaii oddball cases, CDC offers the following reminders to consumers:

  • Consumers should check their homes, including their freezers, for recalled ground beef products and not eat them; restaurant and food service operators should not serve it. Consumers with questions about recalled ground beef products may contact Hannaford’s Customer Information Center, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at telephone number (800) 213-9040, and choose option 6.
  • Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry, including frozen and fresh ground beef. Then, disinfect the food contact surfaces using a freshly prepared solution of 1 tablespoon unscented liquid chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water.
  • Cook ground beef thoroughly. Ground beef dishes should always be cooked to 160°F internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer; leftovers also should be reheated to 160°F. The color of cooked ground beef is not an indicator that product has been safely cooked. Only by using a food thermometer can one accurately determine that ground beef has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 160°F throughout the product. Ground beef can remain pink even after cooking to a safe minimum internal temperature of 160°F. Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, older adults, and persons with impaired immune systems. For more information, please visit FoodSafety.gov.
  • If served undercooked ground beef in a restaurant, send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.
  • Avoid cross-contaminating other foods. Uncooked meats and ground beef should be kept separate from produce, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods. Do not wash raw meat or poultry before cooking because splashing water can spread any pathogens present on raw meat surfaces to other kitchen surfaces. Hands, cutting boards, counters, knives, and other utensils should be washed thoroughly after touching uncooked foods. Hands should be washed before handling food, and between handling different food items.
  • Refrigerate raw and cooked meat and poultry within 2 hours after purchase (1 hour if temperatures exceed 90°F). Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within 2 hours after cooking. Refrigerators should be set to maintain a temperature of 40°F or below.
  • Persons who think they might have become ill from eating possibly contaminated ground beef should consult their health care providers. Infants, older adults, and persons with impaired immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness.

Original Story (posted December 16, 2011)

Fourteen people in the US northeast have been infected with a strain of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Typhimurium. Eleven of the 14 victims reported having eaten ground beef; in ten cases, the beef was purchased at a Hannaford store. Seven of the 14 victims (50%) were hospitalized.

Three illnesses were reported in New Hampshire. Other outbreak victims are from Maine (4), New York State (4) and Vermont (1). Three of the four New York State victims were among the seven who were hospitalized.

The outbreak has been traced epidemiologically to fresh in-store ground beef prepared in and purchased at Hannaford stores in Maine, New York, New Hampshire and Vermont between October 12 and November 20, 2011. The 85% ground beef was the most common variety associated with the outbreak.

Hannaford has recalled the following ground beef products (all package sizes) bearing Sell-by dates of Dec. 17, 2011 or earlier that were sold at the supermarket’s stores throughout Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont:

  • 73% Hannaford Regular Ground Beef
  • 75% Hannaford Regular Ground Beef
  • 80% Hannaford Regular Ground Beef
  • 85% Hannaford Regular Ground Beef
  • 90% Hannaford Regular Ground Beef
  • 80% Taste of Inspirations Angus Ground Beef
  • 85% Taste of Inspirations Angus Ground Beef
  • 90% Taste of Inspirations Angus Ground Beef
  • 85% Nature’s Place Ground Beef
  • 90% Nature’s Place Ground Beef

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has not been able to identify the suppliers who furnished Hannaford with the raw meat that was used to prepare the recalled ground beef, due to what the agency described as the retailer’s “limited records.” The possibility exists that raw beef contaminated with the Salmonella outbreak strain may also have been supplied to other retailers in the region.

Consumers who purchased ground beef from a Hannaford Supermarket should check their refrigerators and freezers for the recalled product. Hannaford is urging its customers to discard or return any packages of ground beef bearing a sell-by date of Dec. 17, 2011 or earlier. Anyone experiencing symptoms of salmonellosis should seek medical attention.

FSIS reminds consumers to “safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume ground beef that has been cooked to a temperature of 160° F.”


France’s Stealthy Salmonella Outbreak

Say what you will – and I’ve had plenty to say – about the lack of food safety transparency in the USA and Canada. The situation in France makes FDA, USDA and Canada’s CFIA look like a gaggle of gossips by comparison.

On December 17th, La Société SALAISON POLETTE ZA (located at Champ St. Pierre 63460 Teilhède, France) recalled several brands of “Label Rouge (Red Label)” dried sausage products, due to a strong suspicion that Salmonella was present in the products. All products packaged in perforated bags and sold from October 1st through December 15th 2011 were included in the recall.

As it turns out, the recall was triggered by more than a “strong suspicion” of Salmonella. Today’s notification list (December 20, 2011) from Europe’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) included the following item:

Foodborne outbreak (Salmonella monophasic serovar 4, 5, 12) caused by dried sausages “Red Label” from France.

The implicated products were distributed in France, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia. The outbreak and recall notice were issued by France.

The products were sold under the Môssieur Polette, Nos Regions ont du Talent, Cora, Match chez Leclerc, Casino, Monoprix and Match brand names, and included the following items:

  • Saucisson sec Label Rouge: 300g & 250g
  • Rosette Label Rouge: 400g
  • Saucisse sèche Label Rouge: 300g

Ironically, the “Label Rouge” designation is meant to provide an assurance of heightened standards of production, quality and safety, as described by one participating poultry farm:

“The Label Rouge program focuses on high-quality products, mainly meat, with poultry making up most of the products. It emphasizes quality attributes such as taste, culinary qualities, free-range production, and food safety.”

Except for the standard warning to consumers that accompanied the recall notice, the French government has issued no warnings that the recalled sausages were implicated in cases of salmonellosis. We don’t know how many cases have been reported, where the illnesses occurred, or whether anyone has been hospitalized.

I strongly urge my readers in France, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia who may have consumed the recalled sausages to be on the alert for any symptoms of Salmonella infection (stomach ache, low-grade fever, diarrhea), and to seek immediate medical attention if these symptoms appear. The typical incubation period for Salmonella is from 12 to 72 hours after consuming a contaminated food.

The illness usually will last about 4 to 7 days. Most cases of salmonellosis are fairly mild, but the elderly and the very young are at heightened risk of severe diarrhea, resulting in dehydration.

Consumers should check their refrigerators for any of the recalled items, and either discard them in a safe manner or return them to the store where they were purchased.

E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak in Canada

White Veal Meat Packers Ltd. (Est. 412), Toronto, ON is recalling White Valley brand Grain Fed Veal Liver products, sold in boxes weighing approximately 5 kg or approximately 25 kg (Lot 110601, sold in BC, Ontario and Quebec; Lot 110603, sold in BC only; and Lot 110601, sold in Quebec as “White Valley brand Beef Liver”), due to possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7.

The recalled veal liver has been linked to a multi-province outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses, according to the notice posted this evening by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The CFIA notice adds the following “information”:

There have been reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

This is an ongoing food safety investigation. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is investigating a multi-provincial outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in collaboration with provincial health authorities as well as federal health partners including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada.

How many illnesses? We’re not told.

Which provinces have reported illnesses? We’re not told.

Which stores carried the product? We’re not told – except that the item described as White Valley brand Beef Liver was sold at only one store – Boucherie Al-Khair, 300 Jean-Talon East, Montreal, QC.

Compared to Canada, the USA is a model of transparency.