Sixteen people across five states have been sickened from Salmonella poisoning, including several who ate raw ground beef at a restaurant, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday.
No deaths have been reported, but half of those who fell ill have been hospitalized after contracting a rare strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. Most the victims were in the Midwest, with nine of them in Michigan, three in Wisconson, two in Illinois and one each in Arizona and Iowa, according to the CDC.
Local, state and federal health and regulatory officials said the likely cause of the Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak came from two meat houses – Jouni Meats and Gab Halal Foods – both of which are located in Michigan.
The CDC also said that seven of the victims of Salmonella poisoning reported eating a raw ground-beef dish at a restaurant.
"The restaurant served raw beef to customers and had acquired the raw beef from two retailers," the CDC said in a statement, adding that Jouni Meats recalled approximately 500 pounds of ground beef last week while Gab Halal Foods recalled about 550 pounds of ground beef.
Jouni Meats sold the ground beef, which is used raw to make a popular Middle Eastern dish called Kibbee nayyeh. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the raw beef was sold to customers and a Detroit-area restaurant without a label from Dec. 4 to Dec. 9, said local and federal authorities who added that Gab Halal Foods also sold the meat around the same time to customers and the same restaurant, which is located in Macomb County.
Khalil Jouni, the owner of Jouni Meats, said on Monday that he believed the ground beef was safe when he distributed it, and that it may have become tainted somewhere down the line.
"I produce meat to other restaurants and my customers, and none of them got sick," Jouni said. "I make sure everything is very clean."
Gab Halal Foods, which Jouni said is owned by his brother, could not be reached for a comment.
Meanwhile, the CDC warned people not to eat raw or undercooked beef and to return or throw out recalled products.
"This is especially important for children under the age of 5 years, older adults and people with weakened immune systems because these people are at a higher risk for serious illness," the CDC said.
Salmonella poisoning can be fatal for people at high risk, such as the elderly, young children and those with weakened immune systems. The illness is caused by a food-borne organism that usually causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain.