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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

E. coli Totino’s and Jeno’s Pizza in Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, New York, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin and South Dakota

It was a good day to be a lawyer.  I got this email from Carol of Bonfield, IL:

Hi, just wanted to tell you I saw your picture and article in the November issue of the Prairie Farmer. Yes, it would be nice to put you out of business, but it is still good to know there is someone fighting for the little guy when it comes to food that makes someone so sick or dead.

I have also been handling emails and phone calls (between kids soccer games, a swim meet and basketball practice) from people who believe that they may have been sickened by the Pizza.  We have been ordering Health Department records to see if these illnesses are linked to the nationwide E. coli recall. 

As all my avid blog readers know, 5 million frozen pizzas sold nationwide under the Totino’s and Jeno’s labels have been recalled because of E. coli contamination. The problem appears to have come from pepperoni on pizzas produced at a General Mills plant in Ohio. The recall covers pizzas containing pepperoni that have been produced since July (over 120,000,000 pizzas were produced at that plant), when the first of 21 E. coli illnesses emerged.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that eight of the 21 victims have been hospitalized, and four have developed acute kidney failure. Eight of the cases were reported in Tennessee, with the other 11 cases found in Kentucky, Missouri, New York, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin and South Dakota.

Expecting General Mills to mount a "you did not cook the E. coli (a.k.a. cow poop) out of it" defense, I went to YouTube to find the answer –  How To Cook A Totinos Pizza In Three Easy Steps?

The specific products in the recall listed by brand, product and SKU number include:

• Totino’s —Party Supreme–42800-10700
• Totino’s–Three Meat–42800-10800
• Totino’s–Pepperoni–42800-11400
• Totino’s–Pepperoni–42800-92114
• Totino’s–Classic Pepperoni–42800-11402
• Totino’s–Pepperoni Trio–42800-72157
• Totino’s–Party Combo–42800-11600
• Totino’s–Combo–42800-92116
• Jeno’s–Crisp ‘n Tasty Supreme–35300-00561
• Jeno’s–Crisp ‘n Tasty Pepperoni–35300-00572
• Jeno’s–Crisp ‘n Tasty Combo–35300-0057

I spent a bit of time today researching E. coli O157:H7 cases tied to Salami and Pepperoni. Here is what I found:


E. coli O157:H7 in Salami and Pepperoni

Escherichia coli O157:H7 Outbreak Linked to Commercially Distributed Dry-Cured Salami — Washington and California, 1994

From November 16 through December 21, 1994, a total of 20 laboratory-confirmed cases of diarrhea caused by Escherichia coli O157:H7 were reported to the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health (SKCDPH). In comparison, three cases were reported during October 1994. Epidemiologic investigation linked E. coli O157:H7 infection with consumption of a commercial dry-cured salami product distributed in several western states. Three additional cases subsequently were identified in northern California. This report summarizes preliminary findings from the outbreak investigation.

Illness outbreak associated with Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Genoa salami

An outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infection was identified in the spring of 1998, with a 7-fold increase in the number of laboratory-confirmed E. coli O157:H7 cases in southern Ontario. This prompted an intensive investigation by local, provincial and federal public health officials. METHODS: Case interviews of 25 people from southern Ontario were conducted using a broad food history and environmental exposure survey. Laboratory investigations involved both case and food sampling. Specimens of foods sold locally and reportedly consumed by those affected were tested. Common suppliers of suspected foods were identified by cross-referencing suppliers’ lists with stores frequented by those who fell ill.

Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to salami, British Columbia, Canada, 1999

An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections was identified in November 1999 with a fivefold increase in the occurrence of laboratory-confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection. A matched case-control study was conducted. Samples of food from cases and from retailers were analysed for the presence of E. coli O157:H7. A total of 143 cases were identified over a 12-week period with the same pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern. The case-control study found that Company A salami was significantly associated with illness (Mantel-Haenszel matched odds ratio 10.0%, 95% CI 1.4-434, P=0.01). Company A salami tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 and isolates had the same PFGE pattern as case isolates.

A family outbreak of Escherichia coli O157 haemorrhagic colitis caused by pork meat salami 2006

A family outbreak of Escherichia coli O157 infection was microbiologically associated with consumption of dry-fermented salami made with pork meat only and produced in a local plant. E. coli O157 strains isolated from a wife and husband, both hospitalized with bloody diarrhoea, and from the salami carried vt1, vt2 and eae genes and shared the same PFGE pattern. The food vehicle implicated in this outbreak is unusual because of both the animal species from which it originates and the fermentation and drying steps of the manufacturing process. This could be the first report of an outbreak associated with a product containing pork meat only. Even though sources of contamination other than pork meat could not be excluded, pork products should not be neglected in E. coli O157 outbreak investigations.

Deadly E. coli strain traced to Gilde slaughterhouse – 2006

A slaughterhouse partially owned by meat supplier Gilde was contaminated with a virulent strain of the E. coli bacteria that hospitalized about a dozen children and resulted in one death, Norway’s food safety authority said yesterday. Since the outbreak in March this year Gilde has been fighting to clear its name. It’s was Gilde that produced a private label brand of cured sausages that were eventually linked to E coli outbreak and the death. A month after the outbreak, Gilde was found to have sent nearly 600 kilos of potentially dangerous salami to shops instead of destruction