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  5. Outbreak Investigation of E. coli Linked to Ground Bison from Northfork Bison Distributions, July 2019
  1. Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness

Outbreak Investigation of E. coli Linked to Ground Bison from Northfork Bison Distributions, July 2019

Outbreak appears over; Consumers should still avoid recalled Northfork Bison Distributions, Inc. ground bison and bison patties/burgers

September 13, 2019

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local partners in the U.S., and with the support of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), investigated a multistate outbreak of E. coli O121 and E. coli O103 illnesses likely linked to ground bison supplied by Northfork Bison Distributions Inc. of Saint-Leonard, Québec, Canada.

On September 13, 2019, CDC announced that the outbreak appears to be over.

During the investigation, FDA and CDC analyzed traceback and epidemiological information to determine that ground bison supplied by Northfork Bison Distributions Inc. was the likely cause of the illnesses. FDA laboratory analysis of bison patties packed by the firm on February 26th, 2019, confirmed the presence of one of the outbreak strains of E. coli.

Northfork Bison Distributions Inc. was forthcoming with information to aid in the investigation, and publicly announced a voluntary recall on July 16, 2019. This recall included ground bison meat and bison patties produced between February 22 and April 30, 2019.     

FDA regulates bison meat because the authority is not assigned specifically to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) in the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA).

Recommendation

Because the product is frozen and may still be in freezers, distributors, retailers and restaurants should not distribute, use or serve ground bison (including bison burgers) recalled by Northfork Bison Distributions Inc.

Consumers should not eat products prepared using recalled ground bison (including bison burgers) sold under the Northfork Bison label including bison burgers sold to retailers in 4 x 4-ounce packages with expiration dates through October 8, 2020. 

Buffalo Burger Canadian Bison Meat

Case Counts

Total Illnesses: 33
Hospitalizations: 18
Deaths: 0
Last illness onset: August 11, 2019
States with Cases: CT, FL, IL, MI, MO, NJ, NY, PA

What Products are Recalled?

Northfork Bison Distributions Inc. recalled its ground bison, referred to as Bison Ground, and its ground bison patties, referred to as bison burgers and/or Buffalo Burgers, produced between February 22 and April 30, 2019. 

The bison patties were sold to retailers in 4 x 4-ounce blue boxes under the Northfork Bison label with expiration dates up to October 8, 2020.

Consumers are advised to return the recalled bison burgers to the place of purchase for a refund. 

What is E. coli?

E. coli are mostly harmless bacteria that live in the intestines of people and animals and contribute to intestinal health. However, eating or drinking food or water contaminated with certain types of E. coli can cause mild to severe gastrointestinal illness. Some types of pathogenic (illness-causing) E. coli, such as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), can be life-threatening.

People infected with pathogenic E. coli can start to notice symptoms anywhere from a few days after consuming contaminated food or as much as nine days later. Generally, the symptoms include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, nausea, and/or vomiting.

The severity or presence of certain symptoms may depend on the type of pathogenic E. coli causing the infection. Some infections can cause severe bloody diarrhea and lead to life-threatening conditions, such as a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), or the development of high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, and neurologic problems. Other infections may have no symptoms or may resolve without medical treatment within five to seven days.

Due to the range in severity of illness, people should consult their health care provider if they suspect that they have developed symptoms that resemble a(n) E. coli infection., including HUS, but even healthy older children and young adults can become seriously ill.

People of any age can become infected with pathogenic E. coli. Children under the age of 5 years, adults older than 65, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop severe illness as a result of an E. coli infection. However, even healthy older children and young adults can become seriously ill.

General Food Safety Tips for Restaurants and Retailers

In the event that retailers and/or other food service operators are found to have handled recalled or other potentially contaminated food in their facilities, they should:

  • Contact their local health department and communicate to their customers regarding possible exposure to a pathogen.
  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops, and utensils that may have contacted contaminated foods; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
  • Wash and sanitize display cases and surfaces used to potentially store, serve, or prepare potentially contaminated foods.
  • Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
  • Conduct regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils used in processing to help minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination.

General Food Safety Tips for Consumers

  • People should consult their healthcare provider if they suspect that they have developed symptoms that resemble a E. coli infection.
  • Consumers should follow these steps for preventing foodborne illness:
    • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops, and utensils that may have contacted contaminated foods; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
    • Wash and sanitize surfaces used to serve or store potentially contaminated products.
    • Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
    • People with pets should take special care to avoid cross-contamination when preparing their pet's food. Be sure to pick up and thoroughly wash food dishes as soon as pets are done eating, and prevent children, the elderly, and any other people with weak immune systems from handling or being exposed to the food or pets that have eaten potentially contaminated food.
  • Consumers can also submit a voluntarily report, a complaint, or adverse event (illness or serious allergic reaction) related to a food product.

Who to Contact

Consumers who have symptoms should contact their health care provider to report their symptoms and receive care.

To report a complaint or adverse event (illness or serious allergic reaction), you can

Visit www.fda.gov/fcic for additional consumer and industry assistance.

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Previous Updates

July 16, 2019

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local partners in the U.S., and with the support Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), are investigating a multistate outbreak of E. coli O121 and E. coli O103 illnesses likely linked to ground bison supplied by Northfork Bison Distributions Inc. of Saint-Leonard, Québec, Canada.

The FDA and CDC analyzed traceback and epidemiological information to determine that ground bison supplied by Northfork Bison Distributions Inc. is the likely cause of the illnesses.

Additional Information

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