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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Aunt Mid’s, “You Can’t Handle the Truth” of this Lettuce E. coli Outbreak

Aunt Mid’s is disputing the findings of the Michigan State Department of Health and has denied that it is the source of the recent outbreak of E. coli O157:H7:

“Aunt Mid’s is pleased to issue this update of the State of Michigan’s test results, which confirms the Company’s position that its products were not the source of the E. coli contamination. All test results maintain and reinforce Aunt Mid’s sterling reputation in the produce industry for product safety and integrity."

Although it is clear, that as the Detroit News reports, that the source of an E. coli bacteria outbreak that sickened 50 people last month in Michigan, Illinois and Canada has been identified as California lettuce manufactured by Aunt Mid’s Produce Company, Aunt Mid’s seems bent on denying the truth – they just "can’t handle the truth."  Here are the findings of the Michigan State Department of Health:

Based upon analysis of scientific evidence from MDCH’s epidemiological investigation, iceberg lettuce has been identified as the source of the illness outbreak. Case control studies performed independently in Michigan and in Illinois both identified iceberg lettuce as the common source of illness.

Based upon the product trace back investigation conducted by the MI Department of Agriculture (MDA), Fresh Pak/Aunt Mid’s was the common processor of the lettuce supplied to the outbreak locations at MSU, Lenawee County Jail, and in Illinois as well as other foodservice locations identified by ill individuals.

The heads of lettuce being supplied to Aunt Mid’s for washing, cutting, and bagging during the outbreak timeframe were identified as lettuce from California. However, the point at which the lettuce was contaminated is still unknown. MDA continues to work in close cooperation with our food safety partners at the California Department of Public Health – Food & Drug Branch who are investigating the origin and handling of the lettuce in that state.

MDA conducted product and environmental sample testing at Aunt Mid’s the week of September 26. The firm, MDCH, MSU, and FDA conducted additional testing and all those tests were negative for E. coli. However, those were CURRENT products, not products from the outbreak timeframe.

Lettuce from the outbreak timeframe was not available for testing during the investigation due to the perishable nature of the product.