Check Your Fridge: A Salmonella Outbreak Has Come For Ground Beef

A salmonella outbreak spanning four Northeastern states has been linked to ground beef, according to a report made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The warning comes after 16 illnesses were reported between April 27 and June 16, with nine cases emerging from New Jersey, five from New York, and one case each in Connecticut and Massachusetts. While no deaths have been reported, six of those who fell ill required hospitalization.

Based on the CDC's investigation, 80% lean ground beef may be the culprit. Of the people affected by food poisoning, nine reported buying and consuming ground beef purchased from their local ShopRite. Additionally, while two individuals couldn't recall the type of ground beef they bought from the grocery chain, seven of them remembered buying 80% lean ground beef.

The CDC is yet to confirm the source of the outbreak, but a whole genome sequencing test — which provides genetic info on bacteria –  signals that those affected likely got food poisoning from the same source. Likewise, the bacteria that caused the outbreak is "closely related" to a strain present in a sample of ground beef obtained during routine Food Safety and Inspection Service surveillance in March of this year. That being said, the agency suggests that the investigation is still underway as it works to find the source of the contamination.

Salmonella's far reach

While 16 cases of salmonella infection were reported over the span of three months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that the contaminated meat likely had a much further reach. In a report, the CDC wrote, "The true number of sick people in this outbreak is also likely much higher than the number reported. This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for salmonella." What's more, because it takes up to four weeks to determine whether a reported illness is linked to an outbreak, the number of cases has the potential to grow in the coming months.

Salmonella is a common bacterial infection that typically occurs following the ingestion of undercooked meat, poultry, and eggs. While some people who contract the illness show no symptoms, many others may experience diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramping, which typically begins in the 72 hours following exposure, according to Mayo Clinic. The CDC's report reminds us that in order to kill the salmonella bacteria present in ground beef, raw ground beef should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. As of right now, no recalls have been issued by the organization.