8,800 pounds of beef processed at N.H. slaughterhouse recalled due to E. coli

  • Workers cut beef into sections at PT Farm meat processing plant in North Haverhill, N.H., in September 2012. (Valley News — Sarah Priestap) Sarah Priestap

  • PT Farm logo, North Haverhill, NH Courtesy—PT Farm

Monitor staff
Published: 7/27/2016 11:27:11 PM

A slaughterhouse in North Haverhill has been linked to an outbreak of sickness caused by E. coli bacteria in ground beef made from cows from four New Hampshire farms, an outbreak that sent five people to the hospital.

It is the first recall related to E. coli in ground beef from New Hampshire farms in well over a decade, although the state has been part of regional or national recalls during that period.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week issued a recall of approximately 8,800 pounds of raw ground beef products produced at the PT Farm facility between June 6 and June 16. Some of the beef was tainted with E. coli bacteria and has been associated with sickness in 14 people, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

People became ill between June 17 and July 16 after eating ground beef at a number of different locations, according to state officials. No deaths have been reported, but five people have been hospitalized.

The incident was still under investigation by USDA inspectors Wednesday afternoon. The slaughterhouse is still operating.

The processing facility on Route 116 was opened as a USDA-licensed slaughterhouse in 2012, although the owners, Peter and Tara Roy, had been processing meat for years before in a smaller facility on their farm elsewhere.

“We are saddened by this isolated incident. We have been sending (cows to PT Farm) for over 10 years and have never had an incident,” said Carole Soule, co-owner of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, one of four farms whose meat was part of the recall.

She said that no sickness had been related to her farm’s beef, but that it was recalled because Miles Smith Farm cows were processed on the same day as cows that were turned into beef that contained E. coli bacteria.

Ground beef from three other farms – PT Farm, Chestnut Farm of Lee and Robie Farm of Piermont – was also involved in the recall.

E. coli often exists in the guts of cattle. Part of the ​complexity of a slaughterhouse involves removing hundreds of pounds of meat from carcasses without puncturing the intestines or allowing their contents to ever get in contact with the meat.

Soule said she was confident that PT Farm had solved the problem.

“They are adding additional cleaning and washing, and training,” she said.

The facility is one of four USDA-certified slaughterhouses in the state, meaning that meat it processed can be sold by shops and other retail outlets. Meat processed at non-USDA facilities can only be sold at the farm where the meat originated.

“While the source of this outbreak has been identified, it is still important that consumers always avoid eating under-cooked ground beef whether at home or at a restaurant,” said Marcella Bobinsky, acting director of public health at HHS, in a statement. “E. coli can be a very serious illness, especially for young children and people with compromised immune systems. We will continue to monitor for cases related to this recall.”

The retail locations where the tainted beef was sold are expected to be posted in the coming days.

The state urged people to check their freezers for any recalled product from the four farms. All of it was packaged in cardboard boxes.

Ground beef should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160 degrees. It is best to use a thermometer, since color is not a very reliable indicator of “doneness,” the state said.

Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can cause illness.The bacteria in this case is Escherichia coli O157:H7, which causes severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually is not very high. Most people get better within five to seven days.

PT Farm also processed the pig known as Pink 2.0, whose life was chronicled in a series of Monitor articles. The pig was raised at Miles Smith Farm.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313, or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

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