We have seen that strain in the United States before. 341 people became ill with E. coli O111:NM during an outbreak traced to Country Cottage Restaurant. Seventy people were hospitalized, 17 with HUS, and one person died as a result of the E. coli infection in what is believed to be the largest community outbreak of diarrheal illness and HUS attributable to E. coli O111:NM ever reported. No specific tainted food item was identified. So, the fresh vegetable industry and the beef industry can say that such an outbreak has not been linked to them – yet!
Now throughout Europe (Germany, Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, France and Switzerland), 1,000 have been sickened, 300 have developed HUS and 10 have died as a result of E. coli O104:H4 (E. coli O104, stx2 positive and eae negative) – tainted cucumbers from Spain.
We have seen E. coli O104 in the United States before. In 1994 milk from a Montana dairy was implicated in an outbreak of E. coli O104:H21. We have also found it in the testing of retail ground beef that I funded in 2008-2009. In fact, we found an O104:H7, stx2 positive, eae negative, subtilase positive E. coli (see picture above and PowerPoint Presentation). So, the fresh vegetable industry can say E. coli O104 has not been linked to them – yet! The beef industry can say that such an outbreak has not been linked to them – yet, but we certainly found it in a place (hamburger) that it should not be in.
Mr. President, Secretary Vilsack, Secretary Sibelius, FDA, FSIS, what are we doing to avoid a Japanese or European outbreak of E. coli O111 or E. coli O104?