Recent salmonella outbreak might be linked to Graham slaughterhouse

The salmonella food poisoning that this month sickened at least 11 people in Seattle and one person in Pierce County might be traced to a Graham slaughterhouse that was shut down after an outbreak last year sickened nearly 200 people in five states, health officials said Tuesday.

The victims in Pierce and King counties might have been sickened by Salmonella I, 4, 5, 12 :i:-, the same strain identified in an outbreak last year that shut down Kapowsin Meats, a Graham slaughterhouse, said Dr. Scott Lindquist, Washington state epidemiologist.

All victims ate whole roast pork served either at a private event in Pierce County on July 2 or at the Good Vibe Tribe Luau at Golden Gardens Park in Seattle on July 3, Lindquist said.

The meat in both cases came from Kapowsin, which reopened June 13 with approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In the Pierce County case, a woman in her 60s was hospitalized with salmonella poisoning after eating whole roast pork at a campground barbecue, said Edie Jeffers, a spokeswoman with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

The genetic fingerprints of the bacteria match those from the outbreak that caused 22 clusters of illnesses in June and July 2015 in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California and Alaska, Lindquist said.

That outbreak caused 192 illnesses, 30 hospitalizations — and the recall of nearly 640,000 pounds of whole hogs and other pork products in August. The bacteria were resistant to multiple antibiotics, making treatment more difficult, officials said.

When reached by phone Tuesday, John Anderson, chief executive of Kapowsin Meats in Graham, declined to answer questions.

He referred calls to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Officials with the agency said Kapowsin had implemented new cleaning, processing and bacterial-sampling protocols, including running whole hog carcasses through a steam intervention to kill bacteria.

Federal inspectors were at the plant when it reopened in June and have been there every day that slaughter occurred.

Officials with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they were monitoring the outbreak closely.

Salmonella food poisoning can cause vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms. It can cause serious illness in people with weakened immune systems.