Outbreak of E. coli Infections Linked to Ground Bison Produced by Northfork Bison Distributions, Inc.

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July 16, 2019 at 6:15 PM ET

CDC, several states, the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationexternal icon, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are investigating a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O103 and O121 infections linked to ground bison produced by Northfork Bison Distributions, Inc.

Recalls and Advice to Consumers, Restaurants, and Retailers
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At A Glance

 

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Recall

On July 16, 2019, Northfork Bison Distributions, Inc. in Saint-Leonard, Quebec, Canada, recalled ground bison produced between February 22, 2019, and April 30, 2019. Recalled ground bison was sold to distributors as ground bison and bison patties, referred to as Bison Burgers and/or Buffalo Burgers. Recalled ground bison was also sold to retailers in 4-ounce burger patties.

Advice

Consumers should not eat and restaurants and retailers should not sell or serve, recalled ground bison products.

  • Consumers who have recalled ground bison burger patties in their home should not eat them. Throw them away or return them to the store for a refund. Even if some of the recalled patties have been eaten and no one got sick, do not eat them.
    • Wash and sanitize places where recalled ground bison products were stored: countertops and refrigerator drawers or shelves. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.
    • When ordering at a restaurant, ask that ground bison burgers be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160°F.
  • Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell recalled ground bison and should check freezers and storage for recalled products. Restaurants and retailers should check with their supplier to determine if their ground bison has been recalled.

In general, consumers and restaurants should always handle and cook ground bison safely to avoid foodborne illness. Thoroughly cook ground bison and any food that contains ground bison to an internal temperature of 160°F to kill germs.

Take action if you have symptoms of an E. coli infection:

  • Talk to your healthcare provider.
  • Write down what you ate in the week before you started to get sick.
  • Report your illness to the health department.
  • Assist public health investigators by answering questions about your illness.
Latest Outbreak Information
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  • A total of 21 people infected with the outbreak strains of E. coli O103 and E. coli O121 have been reported from 7 states.
    • Eight people have been hospitalized. No cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure, have been reported. No deaths have been reported.
  • Epidemiologic and traceback information indicate that ground bison produced by Northfork Bison Distributions, Inc., is the likely source of this outbreak.
    • Ill people in this outbreak report eating ground bison in burgers at restaurants and at home.
  • On July 16, 2019, Northfork Bison Distributions, Inc. in Saint-Leonard, Quebec, Canada, recalled ground bison and bison patties (referred to as Bison Burgers and/or Buffalo Burgers) produced between February 22, 2019, and April 30, 2019.
  • Consumers should not eat recalled ground bison. Restaurants and retailers should not sell or serve recalled ground bison.
  • CDC will provide updates as more information becomes available.
Symptoms of E. coli Infection
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  • People usually get sick from Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) 3 to 4 days after swallowing the germ.
  • Symptoms often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting, and usually last 5 to 7 days.
  • Some people with a STEC infection may get a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.
  • For more information, see Symptoms of E. coli Infection.
Advice to Clinicians

Antibiotics are not recommended for patients with suspected E. coli infections until diagnostic testing can be performed and E. coli infection is ruled out. Some studies have shown that administering antibiotics to patients with E. coli infections might increase their risk of developing hemolytic uremic syndrome, and a benefit of treatment has not been clearly demonstrated.

Investigation Details

July 16, 2019

CDC, public health and regulatory officials in several states, the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationexternal icon (FDA), and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are investigating a multistate outbreak of E. coli O103 and E. coli O121 infections.

Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. PulseNet is the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by CDC. DNA fingerprinting is performed on E. coli bacteria isolated from ill people by using techniques called pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS). CDC PulseNet manages a national database of these DNA fingerprints to identify possible outbreaks. WGS gives a more detailed DNA fingerprint than PFGE. WGS performed on bacteria isolated from ill people showed that the bacteria were closely relatedly genetically. This means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection.

As of July 12, 2019, a total of 21 people infected with the outbreak strains of E. coli O103 (6 people), E. coli O121 (13 people), or both (2 people) have been reported from 7 states. A list of the states and the number of confirmed cases in each can be found on the Map of Reported Cases page.

Illnesses started on dates from March 18, 2019, to June 18, 2019. Ill people range in age from 6 to 79 years, with a median age of 25. Fifty-two percent of ill people are female. Of 17 people with information available, 8 (47%) have been hospitalized. No deaths and no cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure, have been reported.

Illnesses that occurred after June 22, 2019, might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of two to three weeks.

Investigation of the Outbreak

Epidemiologic and traceback information indicate that ground bison produced by Northfork Bison Distributions, Inc., is the likely source of this outbreak.

In interviews, ill people answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became ill. Of 9 people with available information, 6 (67%) people reported that they ate or maybe ate ground bison. Ill people ate ground bison in burgers from several different restaurants or prepared ground bison at home.

Regulatory officials collected records from the restaurants where ill people ate ground bison. These records showed that the ground bison produced by Northfork Bison Distributions, Inc., was sold in several restaurants where ill people ate ground bison.

On July 16, 2019, Northfork Bison Distributions, Inc. in Saint-Leonard, Quebec, Canada, recalled ground bison and bison patties (referred to as Bison Burgers and/or Buffalo Burgers) produced between February 22, 2019, and April 30, 2019. Consumers should not eat, and restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell, recalled ground bison products.

CDC will provide more information as it becomes available.