Saturday, May 25, 2013
PORTLAND — Most of the nearly 30,000 pounds of ground beef recalled Sunday by Cargill Beef was supplied to Hannaford supermarkets, but it remained unclear Monday afternoon what other stores sold the meat linked to a salmonella outbreak that sickened at least five people last month.
Nearly 30,000 pounds of ground beef was recalled Sunday by Cargill Bee, most of which was supplied to Hannaford supermarkets. Cargill spokesman Mike Martin said the meat was supplied to a "handful" of distributors in the Northeast, but he wouldn't name them. He said it is up to them or their retail customers to notify the USDA if they sold the tainted beef. (AP Photo / Robert Bukaty)
Neither Cargill nor the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday named other distributors or retailers that received tubes of the recalled 85 percent-lean ground beef produced on May 25 at a Wyalusing, Pa., facility -- one of 10 beef-processing facilities that Cargill operates in the United States and Canada.
Cargill spokesman Mike Martin said the meat was supplied to a "handful" of distributors in the Northeast, but he wouldn't name them. He said Cargill notified those distributors about the recall, and it is up to them or their retail customers to notify the USDA if they sold the tainted beef.
Martin said that Hannaford was the only retailer to which Cargill shipped the meat directly, and that the Scarborough-based supermarket chain received the majority of the recalled product.
Hannaford, which issued its own press release and posted signs in stores, will provide a full refund for any ground beef with sell-by dates from May 29 to June 16, the period when the product could have been in stores, said spokesman Mike Norton.
Thirty-three people from seven states, including two from Maine, were sickened with the same strain of salmonella enteritidis, which can cause fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea that begin within 12 to 72 hours of consumption and can last four to seven days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Investigators from the CDC, the USDA and the states of Vermont and New York were able to link five people, whose illnesses began June 6 to 13, directly to the Cargill product that was recalled. Two of those five people were hospitalized.
The USDA said that during the investigation, the Vermont Department of Health collected leftover beef with no packaging information that tested positive for the salmonella strain, which is not resistant to antibiotics, as some strains are.
The Maine people who got sick were not among those linked directly to the product, said state epidemiologist Stephen Sears.
He said both were adults, one from Kennebec County and one from Sagadahoc County, and neither was hospitalized.
Both reported eating ground beef soon before they got sick, and one said that the beef came from a Hannaford store, said Sears.
The USDA said the recalled meat was shipped to distribution centers in Maine, New York and Connecticut in cases of three 14-pound tubes each.
Hannaford has meat distribution centers in South Portland and Schodack, N.Y., and 181 stores in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.
The people sickened in the outbreak came from those five states, as well as Rhode Island and Virginia, said the USDA.
The USDA has named only Hannaford on its retail distribution list for the outbreak.
Cargill Beef is the world's largest ground beef producer at over 1 billion pounds per year, Martin said. Cargill will try to determine which animals the contamination came from, but Martin said that isn't easy to do.
He said the company's last ground beef recall was in 2010 for E. coli contamination. Cargill wasn't able to determine the animals that carried the bacteria, Martin said.
Hannaford recalled 17,000 pounds of ground beef on Dec. 15, 2011, following an outbreak of salmonella typhimurium that sickened at least 20 people, 12 of whom reported eating Hannaford beef in the week before symptoms appeared.
Investigators weren't able to identify the beef supplier because of the Hannaford's record-keeping and grinding practices, which it has since improved.
Norton said he didn't know whether the changes helped investigators to identify Cargill as the supplier of the contaminated meat this time and deferred questions to the USDA, which did not provide answers by press time.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at: