By Eric M. Johnson
(Reuters) - Sixteen people across five states have fallen ill from Salmonella poisoning, several from a raw ground-beef dish served at a single restaurant, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday.
Local, state and federal health and regulatory officials said the likely cause of the Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak was Jouni Meats Inc and Gab Halal Foods, both of Michigan.
Most the people sickened were in the Midwest - two in Illinois, one in Iowa, three in Wisconsin and nine in Michigan, where the meat shops are located, the CDC said. One sick person was identified in Arizona.
Seven people reported eating a raw ground-beef dish at a restaurant, the CDC said, adding that roughly half of the people were hospitalized, although none died.
"The restaurant served raw beef to customers and had acquired the raw beef from two retailers," the CDC said in a statement, without naming the restaurant.
Last week Jouni Meats recalled approximately 500 pounds of ground beef and Gab Halal Foods recalled about 550 pounds of ground beef, the CDC said.
Jouni Meats sold the meat, used to make a raw Middle Eastern ground beef dish called kibbeh, without a label between December 4 and 9 to customers, including a Detroit-area restaurant, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Gab Halal Foods also sold bags of ground beef in clear plastic at around the same time to customers and the same restaurant, located in Macomb County, local and federal officials said.
Khalil Jouni, owner of Jouni Meats, on Monday said he believed the ground beef had been safe when he distributed it and 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.
The illness from the food-borne organism usually causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. It can be fatal for the elderly, young children and those with weakened immune systems.
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.
(Reporting By Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Maureen Bavdek and Bob Burgdorfer)