Escherichia coli O157:H7 is a common cause of foodborne illness in the United States. Beef ground at establishments regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service is routinely tested for E. coli O157:H7. Prior to December 2013, boxed beef product (wholesale cuts of beef, such as beef loin, packaged into bags and boxed for shipping) was not always tested for this pathogen. Downstream processors or retailers may grind the product; and, if the ground beef is not cooked to the recommended temperature, pathogens on the exterior of the beef introduced to the interior through grinding may survive. On 18 October 2013, the Allegheny County Health Department identified two E. coli O157:H7 cases, both of whom were food handlers at restaurant A, a restaurant that ground locally produced boxed beef for hamburgers on site. Case finding was conducted through public messaging, employee surveys, and disease surveillance. All potential cases were interviewed using a standard questionnaire. A confirmed case was defined as laboratory-confirmed E. coli O157:H7 with exposure to restaurant A. A probable case was defined as a patient with compatible symptoms and exposure to restaurant A but without laboratory confirmation. All human and food isolates were characterized by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and multilocus variable-number tandem repeat analysis. The analysis identified 14 confirmed and 10 probable cases of E. coli; 18 nonintact ground beef samples tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. Nine confirmed cases were restaurant A employees. All confirmed cases recalled eating a restaurant A hamburger in the 10 days before illness onset; most cases reported consuming medium to rare hamburgers. Multiple pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and multilocus variable-number tandem repeat analysis patterns were identified among both the human and ground beef isolates, and the patient isolates matched those found in ground beef samples. Restaurant A voluntarily closed for 1.5 days, changed beef suppliers, ceased grinding beef in-house, and has had no new cases since reopening.

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