Cincinnati meat company voluntarily recalls nearly 73,000 lbs of meat

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Two local residents were sent to the hospital after eating tainted beef.

The incident sparked a voluntary recall of 72,800 pounds of beef from the Cincinnati-based distributor J.B. Meats.

According to Mark Wordeman, owner of J. B. Meats, the product was sold to restaurants in the Cincinnati area. He said the 10 to 12 restaurants he supplies have been notified and are no longer using the meat. He also tells FOX19 the E. coli did not come from his business and most likely came from a slaughter house.

Wordeman asked all restaurants who have purchased ground beef and ground beef patties from them between August 18, 2010 and August 18, 2011 to stop serving the meat. The Ohio Department of Agriculture says some of the beef is possibly infected with E. coli. Each clear plastic bag and label have the establishment number "est. 1188" within the Department of Agriculture's mark of inspection.

There has been no definitive link between the illnesses and J.B. Meats, but Wordeman said he wanted to err on the side of caution. Local health officials say that was the right thing to do.

Cincinnati Health Department Spokesperson Rocky Merz said two people were sickened with E. coli after eating tainted beef on either July 16th or 17th.

"We talk to those that are ill," said Merz. "Find out where they've eaten, and that led us to one local restaurant."

That restaurant is Arthur's in Hyde Park.

Merz said the Cincinnati Health Department was notified last week. Investigators were then sent out to the restaurant last Thursday to take samples.

"From what we know, two individuals were served uncooked meat," said Merz. "Medium rare. Ground beef.

We're told the customers ordered those medium-rare burgers. However, less time on the fire means less time to kill E. coli. The Ohio Department of Agriculture Spokesperson Erica Pitchford said more victims could be out there.

"These two {victims} just happen to be somewhat severe cases," said Pitchford. "They both sought medical treatment, and that information gets reported to the local health department of Cincinnati. They're able to start connecting the dots."

Investigators then connected those dots from Arthur's to where the restaurant's owners bought their beef-- local distributor J.B. Meats.

Pitchford said a team of inspectors has been out this week. She said the facility is clean.

"It's possible that the meat was contaminated before it came to J.B.'s to be ground," said Pitchford.

It's still a mystery as to where the beef was contaminated.

Pitchford said many of the companies J.B. Meats buys their meat from are located out of state and out of the jurisdiction of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Arthur's owner Susan Selzer wouldn't go on camera, but over the phone told FOX19 that she is still buying meat from J.B. Meats and serving it.

"The meat that is in question would have been used up by now," said Merz. "But again the biggest threat is for raw and under-cooked meat, and they've taken care of that by ensuring the meat will be fully cooked.

Pitchford said she is aware of seven other possibly affected restaurants in Cincinnati, but said she did not have the names of those restaurants.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness. All persons are reminded when consuming ground beef the meat should be cooked to 160 degrees as determined by a hand held thermometer. 

Anyone who believes they are or have suffered from a food-related illness, is urged to contact a healthcare provider.

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