E. Coli Found in Ground Beef and Walnuts – Full Detail

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Last week, federal authorities issued recalls for ground beef and organic walnuts due to potential contamination with E. coli bacteria, which can cause illness in humans.

The recalls encompass over 16,000 pounds of ground beef distributed by Cargill Meat Solutions and sold at Wal-Mart stores across 11 states. Additionally, organic shelled walnuts sold in bulk at natural food and co-op stores in 19 states are affected. The recalled walnuts have been linked to 12 reported illnesses, including seven hospitalizations in Washington state and California.

 

E. Coli Found in Ground Beef and Walnuts
E. Coli Found in Ground Beef and Walnuts

While no diseases have been accounted for comparable to the ground hamburger review, ground meat stays a typical wellspring of E. coli-related diseases, accounting for approximately 265,000 cases annually. However, many of these cases go unreported or undiagnosed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as individuals often recover without seeking medical attention, noted Matthew Wise, head of the CDC’s Flare-up Reaction and Avoidance Branch.

Where You’ll Find the Bacteria

According to microbiologist Edward Dudley, director of the E. Coli Reference Center at Pennsylvania State University, there are numerous types of E. coli, with most being harmless to humans. However, certain types, such as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, can cause illness in humans and are commonly found in the intestines of cows, making them a frequent contaminant of ground beef. The E. coli strains involved in the recent recalls of walnuts and ground beef belong to this category.

Dudley further explained that as these bacteria exit animal intestines and end up in feces, they can contaminate farm soil, contributing to E. coli outbreaks associated with produce. Additionally, they can contaminate bodies of water like ponds, lakes, and rivers.

Angelica Barrall, an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer with the CDC, mentioned that the agency is investigating how the bacteria contaminated walnuts, which are grown on trees.

An Ounce of Prevention

According to Wise, the most effective way to prevent E. coli infection is by taking precautions during food preparation. This includes keeping raw meat and poultry separate from other foods and thoroughly washing hands after handling them. Wise emphasizes the importance of cooking meat and proteins to the correct temperature to eliminate any bacteria present, and refrigerating leftovers within two hours to slow bacterial growth.

Regular handwashing is advised, regardless of whether you’re handling food, as E. coli can spread through polluted surfaces or hands.

Given that E. coli can sometimes contaminate raw foods like produce and nuts, it’s crucial to monitor food recalls and discard any recalled products, Wise emphasized.

The CDC also recommends washing fruits and vegetables under running water, consuming only pasteurized milk and fruit juices, and avoiding consumption of raw dough or batter. Additionally, it’s best to refrain from swallowing water while swimming in untreated bodies of water such as lakes or rivers.

If Someone Gets Sick

Symptoms of E. coli infection usually appear within three to four days after consuming contaminated food and may include diarrhea, vomiting, low-grade fever (less than 101 degrees), and abdominal cramps.

These symptoms can resemble those of other common foodborne illnesses like salmonella (affecting about 1.35 million people annually) and norovirus (impacting 19 million to 21 million Americans per year). In comparison, Listeria monocytogenes causes around 1,600 illnesses annually.

Dr. Robert Bonomo, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, notes that a key sign of E. coli infection is blood in the diarrhea. Dr. William Miller, an infectious disease physician at Houston Methodist Hospital, adds that abdominal pain with E. coli is typically more severe than with other diarrheal illnesses.

If you experience these symptoms for more than three days, Wise recommends contacting a doctor. While most recover within a week without treatment, young children (under 5), older adults (over 65), and individuals with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for serious complications.

One potential complication is hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), characterized by decreased red blood cell and platelet counts, sometimes leading to kidney failure. HUS affects 5% to 10% of those with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, with higher incidence among children under 5.

Doctors closely monitor patients for such complications, focusing on hydration and symptom management. They avoid antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen) as these can increase HUS risk.

It’s advised against using anti-diarrheal medications with E. coli, as microbiologist Edward Dudley explains: “You want your body to flush it out.”

 

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