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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Jaquith Strawberry Farm Strawberries Linked to E. coli Outbreak

Screen Shot 2011-08-08 at 1.36.35 PM.pngAs many as 16 implicated with 1 death.

Oregon Public Health officials have identified fresh strawberries from a Newberg farm as the source of a cluster of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections that sickened at least 10 people last month, including one person who died.

The strawberries were produced last month by Jaquith Strawberry Farm located at 23135 SW Jaquith Road in Newberg. Jaquith finished its strawberry season in late July, and its strawberries are no longer on the market. Jaquith sold its strawberries to buyers who then resold them at roadside stands and farmer’s markets.

Health officials are urging consumers who may have purchased strawberries grown on this farm to throw them out. Strawberries that have been frozen or made into uncooked jam are of particular concern. Cooking kills E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.

Ten people have confirmed E. coli O157:H7 infection caused by a single strain. They include residents of Washington, Clatsop, and Multnomah Counties. Six other people in northwest Oregon also have recently developed E. coli O157:H7 infection and appear to be part of this outbreak.

Of the confirmed cases, four have been hospitalized, and one elderly woman in Washington County died from kidney failure associated with E. coli O157:H7 infection. There were twelve females and four males among the cases, and their ages ranged from 4 to 85. They fell ill between July 10 and July 29.

When I was at IAFP (International Association of Food Protection) annual meeting last week there were rumors circulating that, not only was Cargill implicated in this massive turkey recall, but that a strawberry E. coli outbreak was going to be announced any moment. Both of these outbreak absolutely underscore why we need more public health resources, not less, focused on surveillance of bacterial diseases.

  • Sam

    And there are still many who would have us believe that small farms such as Jaquith should be exempt from food safety regulation. I wonder how many of the sickened victims “knew their farmer”?

  • Doc Mudd

    “Jaquith sold its strawberries to buyers who then resold them at roadside stands and farmer’s markets.”
    Sounds like FSMA, even if fully funded and up and running, wouldn’t have intercepted this one — Tester, you remember.
    Oh, and so much for the much bally-hooed farmers flea market snakeoil pitch: “We grow what we sell”. Bah!
    Caveat emptor, baby, caveat emptor!

  • Carl Custer

    Where is the dairy or feedlot upstream, upwind?

  • Minkpuppy


    This outbreak was linked to deer running through the fields, not cattle. Any ruminant animal is capable of carrying E. coli 0157:H7. It’s not confined to feedlots and dairys. Sheep,deer and goats are also sources.

    Everyone is so brainwashed by the media that they automatically jump to cattle as the cause.
    This outbreak proves that there doesn’t have to be a feedlot involved. Deer don’t live in feedlots, the only grain they eat is what they forage out of some farmer’s field.

  • Steve

    RE: Doc Mudd’s: “Sounds like FSMA, even if fully funded and up and running, wouldn’t have intercepted this one — Tester, you remember.”
    Actually, along with the numerous scale and risk-appropriate provisions in the Food Safety Modernization Act governing small and very small farmers, the Tester Amendment contains a signage requirement for all vendors at farmers markets identifying the seller that also identifies liability. This will kick in in 2012.
    Further, because the Tester provisions only apply to qualifying small scale direct market farmer-producers — resellers are not included. In fact, resellers are subject to a completely separate set of stringent handling regulations that also identify liability and apply regardless of size.
    Across the US — while some markets allow re-sellers to participate, many more are producer-only venues and these additional rules will help delineate and identify farmer and re-seller vendors for greater transparency. In the localized Oregon outbreak investigators grilled patients on what they had eaten to find a common link and many said they bought strawberries from a roadside stand.
    And while investigators mention deer as a possible vector in this early stage of the E coli strawberry outbreak, no one knows for sure how the berries got contaminated — and indeed there’s very little overall scientific evidence implicating deer as a primary vector. Also, so far none of the fields or berries have tested positive, though lab work is continuing.
    Finally, It should also be mentioned that unlike the recent huge national ground turkey recall that was announced five months after most of the meat was already consumed. Short localized supply lines facilitate traceability and contain risk.

  • Doc Mudd

    Well, “Steve”, so those “small producers” are instructed to hang a sign. That’s a little lame when vendors (of all sizes) really should be required to issue a printed receipt with each financial transaction, specifying not only the product but disclaimers for the product, contact info for the vendor and, ideally, contact information for the local health department (first line of investigation in any food poisoning situation).
    The plot thickens at the quaint local roadside stand/farmers market: suddenly there are “resellers”. And these characters are under the honor system to identify themselves…and potentially compromise their cash sales or possibly get kicked out of an organized market altogether? That’s a lot of trust to expect without some mechanism for verification backing it up. Too much appeal to blind trust and too much resistance to traceable verification…facilitated by the Tester amendment and self-policed (i.e. aided and abetted) by the shadowy all-cash-transaction “local food” industry. This marketing arrangement selfishly supports the convenience and financial prosperity of “small” producers and vendors by callously exploiting the safety of consumers and their families.
    As for the tracebility of “short localized supply lines”, Oregon state epidemiologist Katrina Hedberg aptly summed up the situation on the ground:
    “…pinpointing the farm was where things got more complicated, not easier. The farm sells its strawberries to a wide array of secondary vendors, who in turn sell them at local fruit stands. Once they’re there, there’s nothing to differentiate fruit from Farm A from that of Farm B.”
    “The traceback here is very difficult,” she says. “A lot of these berries are sold at roadside stands, so they’re really not labeled.”
    Note carefully: Ms. Hedberg is a credentialed epidemiologist who was actually involved in a real outbreak situation. Her professional experience, in real time, absolutely trumps the dreamy assertions of any amateur armchair epidemiology theorist or paid propagandist. Seriously…who ya gonna TRUST?
    At the farmers flea market, at the CSA, at the organic co-op grocery, at the yuppie deli it’s caveat emptor, baby, caveat emptor!

  • Steve

    That’s a GREAT IDEA that Cargill and all the Big Boys should identify their real corporate names on their product labels– not just the lists of their nice, little farmesque label names — along with “disclaimers for the product, contact info for the vendor and, ideally, contact information for the local health department (first line of investigation in any food poisoning situation)” — then maybe something like a 5 month interval between shipping contaminated food and public recall would no longer occur so regularly.
    At the chain restaurant, at the supermarket, at the convenience store grocery, it’s caveat emptor, baby, caveat emptor!

  • Steve, deer have been identified in several studies as carries of e. coli O157H7. For folks who are interesting in researching material, Google has a beta tool called scholar. Here are a number of articles that report E. coli O157:H7 isolation from deer and provide surveillance data. I would recommend for folks that are interested in reading scientific articles about food safety try this resource
    Escherichia coli 0 1 57:H7: an update on intestinal colonization and virulence mechanisms
    Animal issues associated with Escherichia coli O157:H7
    Signs of disease have not been observed in deer that are carriers of E coli O157:H7. The prevalence of E coli O157:H7 in deer was 2.5% in north central Kansas, which is similar to the prevalence found in cattle in the same geographic area.
    A Multistate Outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 Infections Linked to Alfalfa Sprouts
    Grown from Contaminated Seeds
    An Outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 Infection from Unpasteurized Commercial Apple Juice
    An outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections and hemolytic uremic syndrome associated with consumption of unpasteurized apple cider
    Diversity, Frequency, and Persistence of Escherichia coli O157 Strains from Range Cattle Environments†
    Approaches to Controlling Escherichia coli 01 57:H7, a Foodborne Pathogen and an Emerging Environmental Hazard
    Campylobacter spp., Salmonella spp., Verocytotoxic Escherichia coli, and Antibiotic Resistance in Indicator Organisms in Wild Cervids
    Examinations for VTEC
    A total of 104 isolates of potentially pathogenic serovars of E. coli were found in the 207 pooled samples examined. E. coli O103 was found in 41% of the pooled samples, while O26 and O145 were found less frequently. O111 and O157 were not detected (Table 3).
    All 104 isolates were examined for the shigatoxin gene by PCR-analyses, of which 102 isolates were definitely negative. One O103 isolate from red deer was slightly positive for stx1 and another O103 isolate from red deer was positive for both stx1 and stx2.
    A total of 79 isolates were tested for the presence of the gene sequence (eae) that codes for the production of intimin. The two isolates of O103 being positive with regards to stx in PCR were included in this analysis, and tested negative. Two isolates from reindeer were found to be positive in the eae test: one an O103 and the other an O145. However, both these isolates were found to be negative for the stx gene sequence. Hence, no isolates were found to be potentially pathogenic to humans in the sense that gene sequences coding for shigatoxin and intimin were not identified in the same strain.

  • Doc Mudd

    Oh, and a little expose of sloppy recordkeeping and illegal resale of these “farmers market” strawberries.
    Heh, so much for “know your farmer” and trusting in the honor system of self-policing “small, local” producers.
    Oh well, a fool and her money are soon parted…and a good time is had by all!