Department of Health: E. Coli outbreak traced to Sam’s Club stores

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The Minnesota Department of Health is investigating four cases of E. coli reported in Minnesota. The four cases have been linked to meat purchased at Sam’s Club stores in August and September. The news comes just days after a a nationwide recall of meat sold at Wal-Mart stores.

“The Sam’s Club stores currently involved include the Eagan, Maple Grove and White Bear Lake stores. However, we can’t be certain that meat from other stores is not involved, since the brand of implicated frozen ground beef patties was likely sold at other Sam’s Club locations,” said Heidi Kassenborg, an official with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, in a statement.

Kirk Smith, supervisor of the Minnesota Department of Health’s foodborne illness unit, said it was better to be safe than sorry.

“Thorough cooking kills E. coli bacteria. However, we know that some of this meat was contaminated so it is safer to eliminate the risk altogether by recommending that people not consume the meat.”

The tainted meat is sold by Sam’s Club under the brand name American Chef’s Selection Angus Frozen Ground Beef Patties. Customers who purchased that product may return it to Sam’s Club for a full refund, with or without a receipt.

Escherichia coli is a bacteria that lives in the large intestines and colons of most mammals, including humans. The O157:H7 strain of E. coli is usually found in the intestines of cows, and is transmitted when the large intestine is punctured during butchering, allowing fecal matter to come into contact with meat.

The bovine strain of E. coli is poisonous to humans. Symptoms of E. coli infection include nausea, severe stomach cramping, and diarrhea. Two of the victims of the latest food poisoning outbreak developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can cause kidney failure. Anyone experiencing these symptoms is encouraged to contact their doctor immediately.

The beef was provided to Sam’s Club by Minnesota agricultural giant Cargill, one of the nation’s largest privately held companies, according to a report in the Star Tribune.

The recall comes just days after another recall of beef from Wal-Mart-owned stores nationwide, which has so far resulted in over thirty cases of E. coli infection. The two recalls raise significant questions about the safety of meat sold in Wal-Mart stores.

According to the Associated Press, Cargill will not comment on the story until Monday.