The Department of Agriculture announced today a nationwide recall of more than 5 million additional pounds of ground beef in an extension of a recall first announced in October. The recall, instituted by JBS USA—one of the largest meat producers in the country—now totals more than 12 million pounds of beef.
The recall stems from a salmonella outbreak which sickened 246 people in 25 states, and sent 56 victims to the hospital. The last use by/sell by date for the products listed was Sept. 27, so the contaminated ground beef involved in this outbreak is no longer in stores. However, it's possible that consumers may have this meat in their freezers.
The USDA's Food and Inspection Service (FSIS) also updated its list of labels and products involved in the recall, including many brands of ground beef sold at Kroger supermarkets. The agency previously issued a list of retailers that may have sold the ground beef, including Walmart, Winn Dixie, and Sam's Club. The FSIS continues to advise that consumers throw away or return any products they have with the listed labels or with a USDA inspection code of EST. 267.
Kroger did not respond to requests for comment on this latest recall news.
Because so much of the recalled ground beef was sold in bulk and likely repackaged, Consumer Reports maintains its original position from last October: If consumers still have any ground beef or sirloin trimmings in their freezers purchased between mid-July and the end of September of this year, they should not eat it.
A representative from JBS pointed Consumer Reports to a new statement on the JBS website, which reads, in part, "All of the affected product has already been removed from retail stores, but we are taking this careful step because some consumers may have frozen this product for future use." The statement goes on to note: "Based on the results of this investigation and a full evaluation of our internal processes and controls, we have made the decision to voluntarily test one hundred percent of the beef trimmings produced in the Tolleson facility." The JBS plant involved is in Tolleson, Ariz.
Currently the USDA mandates testing of some—but not all—samples of meat that is shipped from a production facility. It was unclear whether JBS was referring to testing all of its ground beef in their statement that it would test "beef trimmings." CR has followed up with requests for clarification from the company.
Consumer Reports' advocates are encouraging more decisive action from federal health officials.
"The USDA's approach to controlling salmonella just isn't working," says Will Wallace, senior policy analyst at Consumer Reports. "In light of this and other recent outbreaks, it's critical for the government to set far stronger rules and guidelines that would help keep people from getting sick."
Signs of Salmonellosis
As always, any ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F, to ensure foodborne pathogens like salmonella are killed.
The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating a contaminated product. The illness usually lasts four to seven days. Most people recover without treatment. In some cases the diarrhea may be so severe that the sufferer needs to be hospitalized. Older adults, infants, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness.
The CDC recommends seeing a doctor if you have a high fever, bloody diarrhea, or severe vomiting, or if diarrhea lasts longer than three days.