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Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 Infections Associated with Beef from Fairbank Farms

FINAL Update November 24, 2009

States where persons infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 live, United States, by state, from August 21, 2009 to November 20, 2009

States where persons infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 live, United States, by state, from August 21, 2009 to November 20, 2009

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Infections with the Outbreak Strain of E. coli O157:H7 by illness onset

Infections with the Outbreak Strain of E. coli O157:H7 By Illness Onset

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Advice to Consumers

Several state health departments, CDC, and the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) are investigating a multi-state outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections. On October 31, 2009, FSIS issued a notice about a recall of approximately 545,699 pounds of ground beef products from Fairbank Farms that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. Health officials in several states who were investigating a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses, with isolates that match by “DNA fingerprinting” analyses, found that most ill persons had consumed ground beef, with several purchasing the same or similar product from a common retail chain. A number of the illnesses appear to be associated with products subject to these recalls. Two samples from opened packages of ground beef recovered from a patient's homes were tested by the Massachusetts and Connecticut Departments of Health and yielded an E. coli O157:H7 isolates that matched the patient isolates by DNA analysis.

The cluster includes 26 persons from 8 states infected with matching strains of E. coli O157:H7. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: California (1), Connecticut (6), Massachusetts (8), Maryland (1), Maine (4), New Hampshire (4), New York (1), and Vermont (1). Of these, the genetic associations of 24 human isolates and both of the product isolates have been confirmed by an advanced secondary DNA test; secondary tests are pending on others. Depending on the results of continuing laboratory testing and ongoing case finding, the number of persons determined to be in this cluster may increase or decrease.

The first reported illness began on September 17, 2009, and the last began on November 6, 2009. Nineteen patients are reported to have been hospitalized and 5 developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Two deaths have been reported. Fifty percent of patients are male and 38% are less than 18 years old (range 1 to 88 years).

Most of the beef packages in the recall bear the establishment number "Est. 492" inside the USDA mark of inspection and have identifying package dates of "091409", "091509" or "091609". Consumers are urged to check their refrigerators and freezers for beef products produced by this firm and purchased on or after September 15, 2009 and discard or return the recalled beef products to the place of purchase for a refund. Customers with questions about the source of a package of beef should contact the place where they purchased it (e.g., grocery store, club store, or meat market).

More information on the recalled products can be found at:
New York Firm Recalls Fresh Ground Beef Products Due to Possible E.coli 0157:H7 Contamination

Advice to Consumers

Cook Beef Thoroughly

Eat ground beef or ground beef patties that have been cooked to a safe internal temperature of 160° F.

  • Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature—it is the only way to be sure ground beef is cooked to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria.
  • Color is NOT a reliable indicator that ground beef or ground beef patties have been cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7.

For more information go to Is It Done Yet? (USDA).

Refrigerate Meats

  • Refrigerate raw meat within two hours after purchase or within one hour if temperatures exceed 90° F.
  • Store ground beef in a refrigerator set at 40° F or below, and cook or freeze it within one or two days of purchase
  • Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within two hours after cooking, and use or freeze it within three or four days
Consumers who have questions about the recalled products can contact USDA-FSIS at "Ask Karen" online at or call the Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (674-6854).

Previous Updates

Page last modified: November 24, 2009
Content source: National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases (ZVED)

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