Meat Tied To Camp Outbreak Recalled

Ground Beef Implicated in Scouts' Illness

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 8, 2008; Page B01

A California company is voluntarily recalling 153,630 pounds of frozen ground beef, some of which has been linked to an outbreak of E. coli bacteria that shut down a Boy Scout camp in Goshen, Va., this week, federal officials said.

S&S Foods of Azusa, Calif., is recalling 30-pound boxes of ground beef that went to distribution centers in Milwaukee and Allentown, Pa. The company is acting on the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, agency spokeswoman Laura Reiser said yesterday.

The meat was intended for food service companies and institutions and was not being sold in stores, Reiser said. The Agriculture Department would not say where the beef might have gone, she said. "From a public health standpoint, that's not going to help the consumer or the doctor to treat their illness," she said.

In a statement, S&S Foods officials said: "Acting with an abundance of caution, we are recalling the product from distribution channels until we can determine whether illnesses in Virginia are connected to our operations or have some other original source or cause. We wish to express our sympathy to those taken ill and we are working diligently to correct the situation."

Reiser said S&S Foods provided the beef products to Cargill, a Minneapolis-based company. A spokeswoman for Cargill said the meat was distributed to a single food service customer, whose name she declined to release, at the Milwaukee and Allentown centers.

Sodexo, the camp's food service provider, gets its food from SYSCO, said Jaya Bohlmann, a spokeswoman for Sodexo. Bohlmann said an alert was sent to Sodexo's 6,000 accounts in North America on Sunday and again Wednesday night to discontinue use of meat from the recalled batch, but she said it was unknown how many locations had the meat in stock.

It was unclear whether other parties were involved in the meat's distribution.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service designated the recall "Class I," meaning "there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death," the agency Web site states. The meat could contain E. Coli O157:H7, a toxin-producing strain of bacteria, officials said.

Reiser said the only known E. Coli cases connected to the meat are from the camp. State health officials said there are 25 confirmed cases among people who attended camp between July 20 and 26. Two campers who attended last week were also infected, and more than 80 people have shown symptoms since the outbreak, said Christopher Novak, an epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health.

At least one Scout, a Northern Virginia resident, remains hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a complication that can occur when the E. coli toxin enters the bloodstream and that can lead to kidney failure, Novak said.

A box of meat from the Goshen Scout Reservation, near Lexington, had an "establishment number" corresponding to an S&S plant, Reiser said, and E. coli in the meat has been genetically matched to bacteria found in samples taken from some campers. That and other evidence led the agency to recommend the recall, Reiser said.

"Virginia tested products and provided us the information, and then we have our illness investigation, and between all that, we can say, 'Yes, these illnesses [at Goshen] are associated with this product," Reiser said.

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