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This recalled meat can make you very sick, so don’t eat it

Published Apr 21st, 2021 3:12PM EDT
food recall
Image: volff/Adobe

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The USDA is one of the entities in charge of ensuring that the food that ends up in the deli case is safe to eat. It does this by performing inspections of imported products but also by conducting random tests of samples on the off chance that they might return a positive result. It happens rarely, but sometimes a sample comes up positive for a dangerous pathogen, and at that point, a recall has to be issued. That’s the case with boneless beef products imported by JBS USA Food Company, which is now recalling roughly 4,869 pounds of imported beef after a USDA sample test produced a positive result for E. coli.

The mean was imported in 60-pound boxes and originated in Australia. The product wasn’t sold directly to consumers but was instead sent to distributors and processors that used the beef in other products. The recall notice doesn’t provide a list of products that might contain the tainted beef but notes that the companies that the meat was bought by are being notified of the recall and are urged not to use it to make any products for retail sale.

This is one of those recalls where we might end up seeing other companies follow suit and recall their own beef products soon. If a company used this recalled beef in a product that was shipped and sold to consumers, those products will also need to be recalled. If the recall wasn’t issued before the distributors and processors were able to halt the production of their products, we may see additional small-scale recalls pop up soon.

As for the risks E. coli poses, here’s the USDA’s assessment:

Anyone concerned about an illness should contact a healthcare provider. E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps 2–8 days (3–4 days, on average) after exposure the organism. While most people recover within a week, some develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children under 5-years old and older adults. It is marked by easy bruising, pallor, and decreased urine output. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service are using this recall as a chance to offer a timely reminder of the best practices when cooking meat. The organization notes that all meat products should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature (which varies by the type of meat) to ensure that all pathogens are killed. For whole cuts of beef, that temperature is 145 degrees Fahrenheit. For ground beef, the temperature is slightly higher at 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Following these directions will help keep you safe from infection even if the meat you’re eating is found to be recalled later.