N. Haverhill Beef Sparks E. Coli Recall

  • Workers cut beef into sections at PT Farm meat processing plant in North Haverhill, N.H., in September 2012. (Valley News — Sarah Priestap)

  • Peter Roy, owner of PT Farm, sits in his office at the processing plant in North Haverhill N.H., in September 2012. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, July 28, 2016

North Haverhill — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recalled nearly 9,000 pounds of beef products produced last month at a North Haverhill processing plant after authorities concluded an E. coli outbreak there sickened 14 people.

A USDA investigation linked the illnesses to tainted beef products produced at PT Farm, a USDA-inspected slaughterhouse and meat processing plant on Benton Road, according to a New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services news release issued on Wednesday.

PT Farm owner Peter Roy on Wednesday said there was a “contamination event” on the slaughterhouse floor on June 1. “Because we didn’t know it at the time,” the contaminated carcases were processed at the plant over a two-week period ending June 16.

“We definitely had to have done something wrong; our process failed,” Roy said, noting that finding out exactly what went wrong hasn’t been an easy process.

He said he has been working with USDA officials to decrease the likelihood of another outbreak. Though he couldn’t delve into specifics, he said some operational changes already have been made.

“The USDA officer that is in charge of finding the problem has recommended steps, which we are in the process of implementing,” Roy said by phone.

An official with the USDA declined to comment on specifics, citing the ongoing investigation.

PT Farm is open for business today, and Roy assured customers that the products coming off the lines are safe to consumers.

“Outside of those dates, our product is as safe as it ever was,” Roy said. PT launched in St. Johnsbury, Vt., in 2004, and moved to North Haverhill in 2012. This is the farm’s first E. coli outbreak, he said.


The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service said in a Tuesday news release that it was notified of an E. coli illness cluster last week, and was able to determine a link between those sickened and products coming from PT Farm.

The recalled products are “raw, intact and non-intact beef product items,” which includes ground beef, premade patties and other cuts, that were produced between June 6 and June 16. Five of the 14 people sickened were hospitalized. It was unclear on Wednesday whether those who were hospitalized have since been released.

Beef products labeled for four specific farms were involved in the initial recall, which took place earlier this week. They included “various weights and various sizes” of beef products from Hardwick, Mass.-based Chestnut Farms, Loudon, N.H.-based Miles Smith Farm, Piermont-based Robie Farm and PT Farm.

The USDA on Wednesday said it has reason to believe 10 other farms received — and potentially sold — the contaminated products. The farms are in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts; only one was from the Upper Valley — Crossroad Farm in Post Mills. Crossroad, a vegetable farm, sells local beef in the coolers of its retail store, for example.

The contaminated products bear No. M8868, according to the USDA’s Tuesday news release.

Beth Daly, the chief of the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at the state DHHS, said consumers likely would have purchased the contaminated beef from a local butcher or farmstand, or at a restaurant. She said beef purchased from major chain grocery stores likely isn’t at play in this recall.

Daly urged anyone who might have purchased beef between the listed dates and froze it to check their freezers.

The strain of E. coli found in the contaminated beef products is typically found in the intestines of animals, Daly explained.

“It can be very hard to control,” Daly said of the contaminant, which she called a common strain found in outbreaks at slaughterhouses and processing plants.

The department said a person infected by the bacteria experiences severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Infections can range from mild to life-threatening. The NHDHHS urges consumers to cook ground beef to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Other retailers looped into Wednesday’s recall notice include A Market Natural Foods in Manchester; Johnson Golden Harvest in Hookset, N.H.; Littleton Food Co-op in Littleton, N.H.; Meadowview Farm in Gilmanton, N.H.; Webster Ridge in Websterville, N.H.; Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, Mass.; M.F. Dulock Pasture-Raised Meats in Somerville, Mass.; and Maine Meat in Kittery, Maine.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com.