Meat with lot codes 072517BNB and 072417BNB and establishment number "EST. 9558" have been recalled by the processor for possible contamination with the toxin E.coli O157:H7, according to the Department of Health.
"If people have [the ground beef], they should throw it out or take it back to the place of purchase," Bradley Tompkins, the state's food-borne disease epidemiologist, said Friday afternoon. The ground beef "continues to be a risk and it's very possible that people have this in their freezer."
Bread & Butter Farm is the only place the 133 pounds of recalled ground beef was sold, said Corie Pierce, owner of the farm. The meat is in one-pound packages.
The recall comes after two Chittenden County children, both under the age of 12, were diagnosed with E. coli O157:H7 poisoning, Tompkins said. The children, one of whom was hospitalized, became ill between September 18 and September 23, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
The Vermont Department of Health, working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, investigated and determined that the two children who became ill had one thing in common: Each ate a burger at Bread & Butter Farm on September 15, according to Tompkins. The farm hosts a "Burger Night" each summer Friday.
"That was our clue there was something amiss," he said.
In addition, a laboratory analysis found that the pathogen's DNA fingerprint was identical in the two cases, he said. "These people were exposed to the same thing," Tompkins said.
The meat was processed at the Vermont Livestock Slaughter and Processing plant in July, said Carl Cushing, who owns the facility. He issued the ground beef recall voluntarily. The meat was raised at Bread & Butter Farm, processed and packaged in Ferrisburgh, and returned to the farm for sale there, he said.
"We have to do this for people to have trust in us," Cushing said of the recall. The Department of Health tested samples of ground beef from the lots that were later recalled and the tests came back negative for the toxic strain of E. coli, Tompkins said. Still, the health department concluded the source of the contamination was the ground beef the children consumed at Bread & Butter Farm on September 15, Tompkins said.
"The lab evidence would be nice to have, but you're looking for a needle in a haystack," he said. "There's no assurance that just because it's negative" the pathogen is not present.
Providing safe and healthy food for the community is the "top priority" of Bread & Butter farm, Pierce said. Burger Night ended for the season a few weeks ago, she said.
"The step to take with the recall is to be super-extra careful because this is so important to us," Pierce said. "We definitely stand behind our products and our practices, but we also want to be sure that we are providing the safest and healthiest food to ourselves and our community."
E. coli O157:H7 is a "potentially deadly bacterium," according to the USDA FSIS, "that can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain."
Cooking meat to 160 degrees will greatly reduce the risk of food-borne illness, Tompkins said.