In May of 2002, the Rockland County Health Department was alerted to a sudden increase in E. coli O157:H7 infections in their residents. A common denominator in all the cases was the purchase of ground beef products at area BJ’s Wholesale Club stores.
Laboratory testing of purchased ground meat products confirmed the presence of E.coli O157:H7 in their ground beef. However, since the products that tested positive initially were handled by consumers prior to testing (handmade meatballs), there was no way to determine if the E. coli was present before handling.
Later, an unopened package of 90% lean ground beef from BJ’s was submitted and tested for E. coli. A positive test result yielded a small recall effort by BJ’s Wholesale Club, who mailed a notification letter only to those individuals who had purchased the ground beef at their West Nyack store between May 8 and May 13 of 2002.