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As U.S. health officials continue their scramble to identify the source of a Salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 550 people, yet another food safety scare has surfaced, this time involving E. coli bacteria detected in ground beef that officials suspect was sold at stores in Michigan and Ohio operated by The Kroger Co.
Health officials in both states said at press time that 19 people were reported ill in central Ohio; and roughly 15 were afflicted in Michigan after eating tainted ground beef sold by Kroger. Several of the victims have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.
According to press reports, a spokesman for Ohio's Department of Health said CDC testing of samples of ground beef culled from Kroger processing centers in Ohio and Michigan revealed the same strain of E. coli 0157:H7 present throughout.
Kroger spokeswoman Meghan Glynn did not respond to requests from Progressive Grocer for additional information. She was quoted in local press saying the big Cincinnati-based chain had been notified that E. coli illnesses reported in Michigan and Ohio between May 31 and June 8 were linked to products purchased in Kroger stores in those states.
"Any ground beef sold during that period is no longer available in our stores," said Glynn, adding that Ohio and Michigan health authorities had not identified the supplier or the specific type of ground beef that caused the illnesses. Glynn went on to say that the chain purchases its ground beef "from major suppliers in the industry and we are working with federal, state and local agencies to identify the supplier."
Seattle attorney William D. Marler, a well known foodborne illness litigator, called on Kroger to divulge the names of its ground beef suppliers, and to also recall all possibly contaminated ground beef chainwide.
"With nearly 50 people sickened in Ohio and Michigan E. coli outbreaks, it is irresponsible for a company like Kroger to not recall all potentially contaminated ground beef sold through their stores," said Marler.