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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

22 Intrastate Bacterial and Viral Outbreaks of 2011 – Food and Others

us-states.gifI remember being at a international food safety conference last year and talking to someone from the EU Food Safety Authority about the difficulty of coordinating foregin states in foodborne illness outbreaks.  We do have the same problems – at times – here in the US with at least 50 Ministries of Health.  However, many times the states do it on their own and do a very, very good job.

1.  Mr. Cheese Multi Year Queso Fresco Salmonella Outbreak–A multi-year investigation by Utah public health officials identified queso fresco, a soft Mexican cheese, as the cause of a Salmonella outbreak that sickened as many as 2,000 people over 3 years.  Officials with the Salt Lake Valley Health Department tracked the source of the outbreak to an unauthorized cheese maker named Mr. Cheese in Salt Lake City, who was making raw cheese in his home using raw milk.  The estimated 2,000 illnesses occurred in six counties — Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Morgan, Tooele and Utah.

2.  NC State Fair E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak–A month-long investigation by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services revealed that the source of at least 27 confirmed E. coli O157:H7 infections in September was an animal exhibit at the state fair.  This outbreak was the third in seven years to occur at the North Carolina State Fair.  In 2004, a petting zoo operating at the fair was determined to be the source of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that sickened as many as 108 people. In 2006, five people became ill after eating at the fair.

3.  El Gran Burrito Salmonella Newport Outbreak–In July 2011, multiple people were hospitalized at Mt. Sinai Hospital as a result of severe gastrointestinal disease.  Several of these unrelated individuals reported consuming food at El Gran Burrito on South Pulaski Road in Chicago, Illinois.  The City of Chicago Health Department initiated an investigation of the restaurant, and ultimately discovered that at least one food handler at El Gran Burrito was infected by Salmonella Newport.  During the course of the health department investigation, many other people reported severe illness after eating food at El Gran Burrito from July 6 through 11, 2011.

4.  McNees Meats E. coli O157:NM Outbreak–In mid-August, the Michigan Departments of Community Health, Agriculture, and Rural Development issued a public health alert regarding E. coli O157 gastrointestinal illnesses linked to the consumption of ground beef from McNees Meats and Wholesale LLC, a meat-processing and retail establishment in North Branch, Mich.  A total of five confirmed Shiga-toxin producing E. coli cases and four probable cases were reported in Lapeer, Genesee, Isabella, and Sanilac counties. Illness onset dates range from July 18-30. Those affected ranged in age from 15-88.

5.  Tyson Ground Beef E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak–Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. recalled approximately 131,300 pounds of ground beef after being epidemiologically linked to an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in residents of Butler County, Ohio.  Illness onset dates ranged from September 8, through September 11, 2011.  A sample of leftover ground beef from a patient’s home tested positive for the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7.

6.  Unsolved Wisconsin E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak–In mid-September, the Wisconsin Division of Public Health announced an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak amongst residents of Green County.  The illnesses occurred mostly in August, sickening nine people.  One young girl died.  Two people developed HUS.   

7.  Cowan’s Gap E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak–In the middle of the summer, at least 15 people contracted E. coli O157:H7 after spending time at Cowan’s Gap recreation area, and swimming at the lake located there.  According to press accounts, over half of those sickened developed hemolytic uremic syndrome. 

8.  JB Meats E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak–In mid-August, Ohio health officials linked at least two confirmed E. coli O157:H7 illnesses amongst Ohio residents that ate ground beef products produced by JB Meats, an Ohio meat processing company.  The illnesses occurred in mid-July.  JB Meats thereafter recalled 72,800 pounds of ground beef products.

9.  Vibriosis Parahaemolyticus Outbreak from Washington Oysters–In early-August, the Washington State Department of Health announced that 22 people had been sickened by Vibrio Parahaemolyticus bacteria after eating raw oysters.  18 vibriosis illnesses were linked to commercial operations and four illnesses to recreational harvesting in Puget Sound and on the Washington coast.

10.  Tucker Adkins Dairy Raw Milk Campylobacter Outbreak–In mid-July, the FDA, working in conjunction with health authorities from North and South Carolina, investigated an outbreak of campylobacteriosis in three people who consumed raw milk from Tucker Adkins Dairy in York, S.C. The three confirmed cases and another five probable cases were from three different households and each case reported that prior to becoming ill they consumed raw milk that was obtained from Tucker Adkins Dairy on June 14, 2011. The onset of illness in these cases occurred in mid June. One person was hospitalized.

11.  Alabama SportsPlex E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak–In June, the Alabama Department of Public Health investigated the gastrointestinal illnesses of thirteen children and two adults at the Opelika SportsPlex and Aquatic Center between June 4 and June 22.  The illnesses were caused by E. coli O157:H7 infection.  Four children were hospitalized, and two of them remained hospitalized for weeks.

12.  Jason’s Deli E. coli E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak–In April, Jason’s Deli located at 3213 East Central Texas Expressway in Killeen, Texas was linked to an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. Eleven were sickened and two hospitalized with HUS. The most likely source of the infection was identified as a batch of guacamole made on April 13th, used as spread for the “California Club” sandwich.

13.  Wisconsin School Raw Milk Campylobacter Outbreak–Sixteen children were sickened by Campylobacter jejuni as a result of drinking raw milk provided by a parent at a school event in June in Raymond, Wisconsin.  Tests later showed that the same strain of bacteria was found in raw milk produced at a local farm. Interviews conducted by the Racine County and Wisconsin Health Department with attendees of the school event revealed that consuming the unpasteurized milk was statistically associated with illness.

14.  Merle’s Smokehouse Clostridium perfringens Outbreak–On Thursday, February 17, 2011 the City of Evanston Health Department was contacted by Evanston School District 65 regarding 30 individuals becoming ill after eating food catered by the defendant at a Parent/ Teacher Conference held on Wednesday February 16, 2011.  After being notified, the Evanston Health Department began an immediate investigation and was able to collect samples of the catered food, which were sent to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Laboratory in Springfield, Illinois for testing. Health inspectors also went to the defendant’s restaurant facility at 1727 Benson Avenue to collect food samples and perform a detailed inspection with regards to food handling, storage and transportation.  The health department sited poor food handling, storage, and temperature control practices as a cause of the outbreak.  Results of testing by IDPH revealed Clostridium perfrigens as the causative agent in the people sickened on or about February 16, 2011 by food catered by the defendant.

15.  Maine Assisted Living Center Salmonella Outbreak–A Salmonella outbreak at Quarry Hill retirement and assisted living facility left one person dead and caused multiple people to be hospitalized.  Seven people total were sickened in the outbreak.

16.  The California State Veterinarian placed raw milk products from Organic Pastures dairy in Fresno, California under a quarantine order.  The quarantine order came following a notification from the California Department of Public Health of a cluster of five children who were infected, from August through October, with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7. These children are residents of Contra Costa, Kings, Sacramento, and San Diego counties. Interviews with the families indicate that the only common reported food exposure is unpasteurized (raw) milk from Organic Pastures dairy. Three of the five children were hospitalized with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a serious condition that may lead to kidney failure.  Surveys indicate that only about three percent of the public report drinking raw milk in any given week so finding 100% of these children drank raw milk and the absence of other common foods or animal exposures indicates the Organic Pastures raw milk is the likely source of their infection.

17.  Cozy Vale Creamery’s raw milk products were recalled because they were linked to three E. coli O157:H7 illnesses and after environmental swabbing at the facility discovered that locations in the milking parlor and processing areas were contaminated with the E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.  At least two of those cases were children who developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.  Cozy Vale Creamery’s whole and skim milk and cream were distributed through seven retail outlets in Pierce, Thurston and King counties. The products were sold retail at the farm store and at Marlene’s Market in Tacoma, two Olympia Food Co-Op locations in Olympia, Olympia Local Foods in Tumwater, Yelm Co-op in Yelm, Mt. Community Co-op in Eatonville and Marlene’s Market in Federal Way.

18.  On Friday, March 25 the Rhode Island Department of Health issued a recall of all baked goods from DeFusco’s Bakery in Johnston.  Cases of Illness between March 14 – April 7, 2011 (Last Report)  • 79 Cases Total, • 30 Hospitalizations, • 48 Lab-confirmed Salmonella, • 2 Salmonella-associated Deaths.  DeFusco’s Inspection Report was alarming; the fact that it will leave dozens of families without a likely legal recourse is pathetic.  Here is a “taste” of what was found: Inspectors say they found pastry cream sitting on the floor, stored at room temperature — a major code violation; “The temperature of the light cream was 125 degrees F and the temperature of the chocolate cream was 119 degrees F;” The Health Department requires cream to be cooled to 41 degrees and stored in the refrigerator; Another violation involves cross-contamination of pastry shells places in egg boxes; “Ready to eat previously baked pastry shells used for zeppoles, eclairs, and cream puffs, were stored in boxes that were used to store raw shell eggs.”

19.  E. coli Strawberry Outbreak–At least 15 people in Northwestern Oregon became ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections after eating strawberries grown on a Newberg farm in July, 2011.  According to Oregon Public Health, the E. coli-contaminated strawberries were grown by the Jaquith Strawberry Farm in Newberg and were resold at roadside stands and farmers markets. 

20.  Tennessee and Virginia 16 E. coli Illnesses with 1 Death–The Sullivan County Health Department confirmed a new case of E. coli raising the total number of cases to 11 among the 8 Northeast Tennessee counties. There are also three more possible cases the Northeast Tennessee Health Office is waiting on test results for. These cases are in addition to the two severe infections in Southwest Virginia, one of which resulted in the death of a 2-year-old girl.

21.  Sprouter’s Northwest Salmonella Outbreak–At least seven people, including four in Washington and three in Oregon, were sickened with salmonellosis in early January in an outbreak of Salmonella associated with contaminated sprouts served in Jimmy John’s sandwiches. Sprouters Northwest of Kent, WA, produced the sprouts identified as the source of the illnesses, according to Oregon health officials. These were different sprouts from a different supplier and a different strain of Salmonella than that linked just days earlier to Tiny Greens, an organic farm in Illinois that supplied sprouts to Jimmy John’s sandwich restaurants in the Midwest.

22.  Schultz Organic Eggs Salmonella Outbreak–At least six people in Minnesota were sickened in August and September with Salmonella Enteritidis infections linked to contaminated organic eggs. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Department of Health said they traced back the eggs to the Larry Schultz Organic Farm in Owatonna, where environmental testing confirmed the presence of Salmonella Enteritidis. The farm recalled its eggs, which were distributed to restaurants, grocery stores, food wholesalers and food service companies in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

OK, I probably missed a few.  Any ideas?

  • This one was pretty small but with 2 cases is technically an outbreak…

    23. Campylobacter Contamination Found in Raw Milk in Tompkins County — The state Health Department received 2 reports of Campylobacter enteritis from people who have consumed raw unpasteurized milk purchased from Jerry Dell Farm. Confirmatory tests completed at the New York State Food Laboratory found that the raw unpasteurized milk produced at Jerry Dell Farm, and collected on September 22, contained Campylobacter.