It seemed like such a good idea at the time.  Everyone would meet at Regatta Park in downtown Oklahoma City at the corner of Reno and Lincoln.  The race would begin off the docks of the Chesapeake Boathouse with a one lap, 1.5 kilometer swim across the Oklahoma River.  The Boathouse International Triathlon would finish up with a 40k bike race and 10k  foot race with $30,000 in prize money for the winners.

That was two weekends ago. Now, however, the Oklahoma Department of Health has reason to believe at least 20 of the 376 triathlon participants are sick with "gastrointestinal illness"

Race officials went ahead with the triathlon on May 16-17th even though water tests conducted on May 15th showed an E. coli count of 573 per 100 milliliters of water. The state standard for "primary body contact recreation," where ingesting water is possible, is a count no higher than 126 for E. coli.

State health officials are now asking every triathlon participant to fill out an online health survey.

Oklahoma’s water woes are becoming all too common.  Private well water was suspected in last year’s outbreak of E. coli 0111 in Locust Grove, OK.   The state’s final report on that can be found here.  Contamination from "poultry litter" has been a subject for litigation involving both the Oklahoma and Illinois rivers.

The year 2007 is going to be remembered for the big beef recalls due to E. coli returning with a vengeance. All totaled meat producers were forced to recall over 33.3 million pounds of beef products.

Topping the list was the 21.7 million pound recall due to E. coli that sent the New Jersey-based Topps Foods into bankruptcy. When United Food Group in June was forced to recall 5.7 million pounds of E. coli-laced ground beef, no one would have guessed it was going to lead to a second half of 2007 that found E. coli in beef just like the bad old days.

E. coli forced the recall of 3.3 million pounds of Totino’s and Jeno’s frozen meat pizzas. In two separate recalls, Cargill had to recall over 1.9 million pounds of beef they had contaminated with the deadly E. coli pathogen.

Most of the big recalls of 2007 remain on the active case list of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The percentage of recalled products actually returned to manufacturers is often pretty low.

Cargill Meat Solutions is voluntarily recalling approximately 1,084,384 pounds of ground beef produced at its Wyalusing, Pa., Cargill Regional Beef facility because of the possible presence of E. coli O157:H7.

Cargill learned of the possibility of contamination after the U.S. Department of Agriculture returned a confirmed positive on a sample of product.

Products subject to recall include:

  • Century Farm Ground Beef
  • Giant Ground Beef
  • Giant Eagle Ground Beef Patties
  • Shop Rite Ground Beef
  • Stop & Shop Ground Beef
  • Wegmans Ground Beef Patties
  • Weis Premium Meats Ground Beef
  • Price Rite Ground Beef


Researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of Nebraska have found that from June through September up to 10 percent to 20 percent of all cattle may test positive for the microbe, which is harmless to cows. In winter, the number of E.coli-positive animals declines to less than 5 percent.

Dr. Robert Gravani of Cornell University acknowledged that summertime means more E. coli outbreaks, and pointed out that consumers grilling more hamburgers is not the only cause, reports Newsday.


The Food and Drug Administration today annonced that the agency is involved in the investigation related to the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak at Taco Bell restaurants. The FDA is actively working with state and local health officials, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the firm, suppliers and distributors to determine the cause of the sicknesses and prevent additional infections.

The investigation has so far focused on green onions, or scallions, supplied to Taco Bell. According to the LA Times, New Jersey food safety regulators and the FDA are investigating two suppliers: McLane Foodservice and a Florence, N.J., facility operated by Irwindale-based Ready Pac Foods Inc.

Ready Pac today announced that it has ceased distribution of green onions until the investigation into the Taco Bell E. coli outbreak has been completed.

The New York State Health Department has issued a press release regarding its investigation into illnesses traced to Taco Bell restaurants.

State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., today announced that the State Health Department is investigating 15 cases with laboratory evidence of a E. coli O157:H7 infection in New York State tied to a national outbreak associated with Taco Bell restaurants. An additional 15 cases are also being investigated. There have been 13 hospitalizations and 1 report of hemolytic uremic syndrome, a severe complication of E. coli O157:H7 infection that can lead to kidney failure.

The New York State Department of Health is independently testing the green onions to confirm preliminary test results obtained by Taco Bell. Taco Bell has removed green onions at all of its restaurants nationwide.

A cluster of E. coli infections have been reported locally in the past week, Manitowoc County Health Officer James Blaha told the Herald Times-Reporter.

The source of the infections has yet to be determined, Blaha said. He said there has been an increase in reported E. coli cases statewide.

E. coli is a bacteria that causes severe abdominal cramping and diarrhea, which is often bloody. There is generally little or no fever associated with the illness. Infection is acquired by ingesting contaminated food or water, or by coming in contact with fecal material from infected people or animals. Blaha urges seeking medical attention if infected.

He said E. coli infections can be prevented by avoiding consumption of raw or undercooked beef, or drinking unpasteurized milk. Most importantly, people should wash their hands before preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom or after having contact with cattle.