There are now more than 276 Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome cases in Germany – a staggering number. There are now over 600 who have been sickened (mostly women) and there have been as many as five deaths – all those numbers will rise. E. coli O104:H4 illnesses have also been reported in Britain, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands in people who recently visited Germany. It appears that Spanish cucumbers have caused the outbreak (meat guys, sigh of relief).
As I said a few days ago, earlier this month Japanese police raided a low-price Korean-style barbecue restaurant chain to investigate the deaths of four people from food poisoning after they ate raw beef at its outlets. Police officers searched the head office of the chain’s operator Yakiniku-zakaya Ebisu barbecue chain and its supplier, Food Forus Co., in Kanazawa in central Japan. Ninety diners had fallen sick after eating raw beef at eateries in near Tokyo and on Honshu Island since April 19, the health ministry said, of whom 23 were seriously ill (i.e., HUS). E. coli O111 was detected in the four fatal cases.
In the United States, non-O157 STECS cause 113,000 cases of foodborne illness each year. Yet, none of these pathogenic bacteria are considered to be an adulterant (E. coli O157:H7 is) by Dr. Hagen’s FSIS, whose Mission Statement is:
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.
A large non-O157 STEC outbreak under Dr. Hagen’s watch is coming – it is just a matter of time – the question is whether she will get on the right side of history and get her agency prepared to deal with it, or will she wait until the bodies stack up like in Germany and Japan before she acts?
Admittedly, this may not be on Dr. Hagen’s lap. It certainly might be on the lap of USDA Secretary Vilsack (former Governor of Iowa) and President Obama (a president who wants to be re-elected and feels he does not need to piss of business interests).