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For Immediate Release
April 25, 1999

Contact: Tim Hadac, 93120 747-9805

Health Officials Find   E. Coli Bacteria in Ground Beef From South Side Grocery

Chicago, IL (SafetyAlerts) - E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria has been found in samples of ground beef taken from a south side grocery store, prompting Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) officials to impound all ground beef at this site, prohibit further use of the shops grinder and urge consumers to return all ground beef purchased at the store with a freshness date of April 20.

The samples, which had a freshness ("sell by") date of April 20, were taken recently by food sanitation inspectors from the CDPH and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, from the Jewel Food Store located at 8721 S. Stony Island.  A USDA laboratory made the finding and reported it today.  The beef in question was from one of several outside suppliers utilized by Jewel.   Federal officials are taking further samples from those suppliers.

Health officials are in close contact with Jewel management, who are cooperating completely in an effort to notify customers of the situation and are working diligently to prevent further incidents of contamination.   Currently, no illnesses have been reported and there is currently no evidence to suggest that beef ground on other days were similarly tainted.  There is also currently no evidence to suggest that ground beef at any other Jewel locations contains the bacteria.

E. coli Bacteria are normally found in the intestines of humans and some animals.   E. coli 0157:H7 can cause illness in people, particularly children, senior citizens and others with weakened immune systems.   In extreme cases, it can be fatal.  In Chicago last year, there were 10 confirmed cases of illness caused by E. coli 0157:H7 infection.

Ground beef may become tainted with E. coli during the processing at the slaughterhouse, or when an infected foodhandler fails to wash their hands after going to the bathroom.

Consumers can prevent E. coli infection by cooking all beef thoroughly, with no red or pink.  Hamburgers should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees (well done).  Thorough handwashing also can prevent the spread of the organism.  Wash your hands with soap and warm water after you go to the bathroom or change a diaper, and before and after you handle raw meat.   Also all kitchen utensils and surfaces that touch raw meat should be promptly and thoroughly disinfected with hot water and soap or bleach.

Symptoms of illness caused by E. coli 0157:H7 can include severe diarrhea and painful abdominal cramps.  Some patients develop hemolytic uremic syndrome in which the destruction of red blood cells can lead to kidney failure, seizures, stroke and even death.  Symptoms usually appear 3-4 days after eating infected food and can appear as many as 8 days later.  Prompt medical attention is recommended.

Chicagoans with a concern about ground beef products from the Jewel store at 8721 S. Stony Island are advised to call the CDPH at (312) 747-FOOD or Jewel at 1-800-JEWEL61