Not  to be confused with the Seven Deadly Sins: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth, although, perhaps some of these outbreaks were sinful.  I had the honor to represent many of the ill and the families of those who died.

Jack-in-the- Box E. coli Outbreak – 1992 – 1993

708 ill, 171 hospitalized and 4 dead

An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 was linked to the consumption of hamburgers from the Jack-in-the-Box Restaurant chain. Cases were reported from the states of Washington (602 cases/144 hospitalizations/3 deaths), Idaho (14 cases/4 hospitalizations/no deaths), California (34 cases/14 hospitalizations/1 death), and Nevada (58 cases/9 hospitalizations/no deaths). A case control study implicated the chain’s hamburgers resulting in a multistate recall of the remaining hamburgers. Only 20 percent of the product remained at the time of the recall; this amounted to 272,672 hamburger patties. Subsequent testing of the hamburger patties showed the presence of E. coli O157:H7. The strain of E. coli O157:H7 found in ill people matched the strain isolated from uncooked hamburger patties. The outbreak illustrated the potential for large, foodborne illness outbreaks associated with restaurant chains receiving shipments of contaminated food. At the time, many clinical laboratories in the United States were not routinely culturing patients’ stool for E. coli O157:H7 by using the correct culture medium. Additionally, many local and state health departments were not actively tracking and investigating E. coli O157:H7 cases.


Chi Chi’s Green Onion Hepatitis A Outbreak – 2003

565 ill, 130 hospitalized and 3 dead

Pennsylvania State health officials first learned of a hepatitis A outbreak when unusually high numbers of hepatitis A cases were reported in late October 2003. All but one of the initial cases had eaten at the Chi Chi’s restaurant at the Beaver Valley Mall, in Monaca, PA. Ultimately, at least 565 cases were confirmed. The victims included at least 13 employees of the Chi Chi’s restaurant, and residents of six other states. Three people died as a consequence of their hepatitis A illnesses. More than 9,000 people who had eaten at the restaurant, or who had been exposed to ill people, were given a post-exposure injection as a prevention against developing hepatitis A. Preliminary analysis of a case-control study indicated fresh, green onions were the probable source of this outbreak. The investigation and tracebacks by the state health department, the CDC, and the FDA, confirmed that the green onions had been grown in Mexico.


Dole Baby Spinach E. coli Outbreak – 2006

238 ill, 103 hospitalized and 5 dead

On Sept. 13, 2006, public health officials in Wisconsin, Oregon and New Mexico noted E. coli O157:H7 infections with matching pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns. These illnesses were associated with eating fresh, bagged spinach produced by Dole Brand Natural Selection Foods. By Sept. 26 that year, infections involving the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 had been reported from 26 states with one case in Canada. A voluntary recall was issued by the company on Sept. 15. E. coli O157: H7 was isolated from 13 packages of spinach supplied by patients in 10 states. Eleven of the packages had lot codes consistent with a single manufacturing facility on a particular day. The PFGE pattern of all tested packages matched the PFGE pattern of the outbreak strain. The spinach had been grown in three California counties – Monterey, San Benito and Santa Clara. E. coli O157:H7 was found in environmental samples collected near each of the four fields that provided spinach for the product, as designated by the lot code. However, E. coli O157:H7 isolates associated with only one of the four fields, located on the Paicines Ranch in San Benito County, had a PFGE pattern indistinguishable from the outbreak strain. The PFGE pattern was identified in river water, cattle feces and wild pig feces on the Paicines Ranch, the closest of which was less than one mile from the spinach field.


Peanut Corporation of America Salmonella Outbreak – 2008 – 2009

714 ill, 171 hospitalized and 9 dead

Beginning in November 2008, CDC’s PulseNet staff noted a small and highly dispersed, multistate cluster of Salmonella Typhimurium isolates. The outbreak consisted of two pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) defined clusters of illness. Illnesses continued to be revealed through April 2009, when the last CDC report on the outbreak was published. Peanut butter and products containing peanut butted produced at the Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, GA, were implicated. King Nut brand peanut butter was sold to institutional settings. Peanut paste was sold to many food companies for use as an ingredient. Implicated peanut products were sold widely throughout the USA, 23 countries and non-U.S. territories. Criminal sanctions were brought against the owners of PCA.


Jensen Farms Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak – 2011

147 ill, 143 hospitalized and 33 dead

A multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes involving five distinct strains was associated with consumption of cantaloupe grown at Jensen Farms’ production fields near Granada, CO. A total of 147 ill people were reported to the CDC. Thirty-three people died, and one pregnant woman miscarried. Seven of the illnesses were related to pregnancy – three newborns and four pregnant women. Among 145 ill people with available information, 143 – 99 percent – were hospitalized. Source tracing of the cantaloupes indicated that they came from Jensen Farms, and were marketed as being from the Rocky Ford region. The cantaloupes were shipped from July 29 through Sept. 10, 2011, to at least 24 states, and possibly distributed elsewhere. Laboratory testing by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identified Listeria monocytogenes bacteria on cantaloupes collected from grocery stores and from ill persons’ homes. Laboratory testing by FDA identified Listeria monocytogenes matching outbreak strains in samples from equipment and cantaloupe at the Jensen Farms’ packing facility in Granada, Colorado.  Criminal sanctions were brought against the two owners of Jensen Farms.


Bidart Caramel Apple Listeria Outbreak

35 ill, 34 hospitalized and 7 deaths

On December 19, 2014, the CDC announced a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples. A total of 35 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes were reported from 12 states. Of these, 34 were hospitalized. Listeriosis contributed to at least 3 of the 7 deaths reported. Eleven illnesses were pregnancy-related with one illness resulting in a fetal loss. here invasive illnesses were among otherwise healthy children aged 5-15 years. Twenty-eight (905) of the 31 ill persons interviewed reported eating commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples before becoming ill. The Public Health Agency of Canada identified one case of listeriosis that was genetically related to the US outbreak. The investigation was assigned Cluster ID #1411MNGX6-1. On December 24, 2014, Happy Apples issued a voluntary recall of Happy Apple brand caramel apples with best use by date between August 25th and November 23rd, 2014 due to a connection between the apples and outbreak associated cases. California Snack Foods brand caramel apples issued a similar recall on December 27th. Both companies used apples supplied by Bidart Brothers. On December 29 Merb’s Candies recalled Bionic Apples and Double Dipped Apples. On January 6, 2105 Bidart Bros. of Bakersfield, California recalled Granny Smith and Gala apples because environmental testing revealed contamination with Listeria monocytogenes at the firm’s apple-packing facility. On January 8, 2015 FDA laboratory analyses using PFGE showed that environmental Listeria isolates from the Bidart Bros. facility were indistinguishable from the outbreak strains.


Andrew and Williamson Cucumber Salmonella Outbreak – 2015

907 ill, 204 hospitalized and 6 dead

On September 4, 2015 the CDC announced an outbreak of Salmonella Poona linked to consumption of cucumbers grown in Mexico and imported by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce. On March 18, 2016 the outbreak was declared to be over. A total of 907 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Poona were reported from 40 states. Among people for whom information was available, illnesses started on dates ranging from July 3, 2015 to February 29, 2016. Two hundred four ill people were hospitalized and six deaths were reported. Salmonella infection was not considered to be a contributing factor in two of the 6 deaths. Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations identified imported cucumbers from Mexico and distributed by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce as the likely source of the infections in this outbreak.

No, really – keep reading. 

According to the Illinois Department of Health, the outbreak of Salmonella sicknesses in Illinois linked to Subway restaurants is spreading. To date, there are 68 confirmed cases, of which 24 had been hospitalized. People with the illness reported eating at Subway locations in central Illinois 24 counties.

According to the CDC, for every one person who is a stool-culture confirmed positive victim of salmonella in the United States, there a multiple of 38.5 who are also sick, but remain uncounted. (See, AC Voetsch, “FoodNet estimate of the burden of illness caused by nontyphoidal Salmonella infections in the United States,”Clinical Infectious Diseases 2004;38 (Suppl 3):S127-34). This means that in this Subway Salmonella Hvittingfoss outbreak of 68 (this number is bound to rise), we are missing 2,550 people so far.

A few critical questions to ask Subway:

1.  Didn’t you just have a Shigella outbreak?

2.  Given that this Salmonella outbreak is in 24 counties, and you recalled various vegetables (lettuce), will you also name your suppliers and tell us if you had any requirement for product testing?

3.  Will you commit to paying for the medical expenses and lost wages of your sickened customers?

Peter and Jacob Hurley_The OregonianPeter Hurley, Oregon policeman and father of three, was introduced to how serious foodborne illness can be when his son Jacob fell ill.  Jacob was sick for 11 days, and later the family found out that during his illness, they had unknowingly been feeding him exactly what made him ill – his favorite food, peanut butter crackers.  Jacob Hurley was one of more than 700 people infected with Salmonella by peanut products from the Peanut Corporation of America in 2009.  Peter has since become a vocal advocate for safer food, traveling to Washington DC to testify before congress, giving interviews, and writing about his experience. 

Today he will appear on Dick Gordon’s "The Story", which airs nationwide on public radio stations.  To find out local airtimes, check the show’s website.

Brian Gehring of the Bismarck Tribune confirmed today that the South Dakota Health Department says it will not seek charges against a rural Washburn woman for operating an unlicensed catering business linked to sickening 180 people last summer.

Aggie Jennings of rural McLean County catered three events (2 weddings, 1 reunion) in mid-June that led to three separate outbreaks of Salmonella Montevideo. Ms. Jennings’ catering operation was not licensed. Salmonella Montevideo is a strain that is associated with baby chickens, and Ms. Jennings raised chickens. The Salmonella strain matched a strain associated with a chicken hatchery in Iowa. At one catered event, consumption of the potato salad was associated with illness, however no food samples tested positive for salmonella. At another event, ground beef that had been served as taco meat was associated with illness and tested positive for the presence of Salmonella Montevideo. At the third event, shredded beef and noodle salad tested positive for Salmonella.

According to a recent State report, the health department issued an order to Jennings to stop catering June 17, three days prior to the McClusky event. The report also found there were four dishes that tested positive for salmonella and all had some type of preparation, storage or handling at Jennings’ residence. It said several people assisting in food preparation at her home might have provided a source of cross contamination.

Brian Gehring reported that any formal charges would be brought through the local state’s attorney’s office, which, in this case, is Sheridan County. McLean County State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson said he asked Sheridan County State’s Attorney Walter Lipp to handle the case because of a possible conflict of interest. Erickson said he is a neighbor of Jennings’ son and while they don’t farm together, they do share some equipment at times.

Brian Gehring also reported that the Tribune called Jennings for comment and a message left on an answering machine was not returned. The Tribune has left numerous messages for Jennings since June and she’s never responded.

Heartland Foods, Inc. of Indianapolis is voluntarily recalling all sizes/containers of COARSE GROUND BLACK PEPPER shipped from their facility at 6815 E. 34th Street, Indianapolis IN. Potential distribution took place on or after October 19th, 2009 to February 17th, 2010. These products have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, the elderly, and other with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

The product involved includes the following sizes: 1 lb Quart (jar), 4 lb Gallon, 8 lb Bucket (new pail). Each container is identified with an individual label showing the Heartland Foods company logo, the description: Coarse Ground Black Pepper, and the specific Net Weight of the container (i.e., 1 lb, 4 lb, 8 lb). Product distribution of Coarse Ground Black Pepper has been suspended while the FDA continues its investigation.

Despite a Colorado state report that faulted the city of Alamosa for ignoring the deteriorating condition of its water tank years before a Salmonella outbreak sickened over 400 and killed one resident, the city refused to resolve claims of its citizens. The city of Alamosa was sued today.

The state report found animal waste likely contaminated an in-ground storage tank that had been identified as a problem in 1997. The 2008 outbreak included 442 reported cases of illness, but state health officials estimate as many as 1,300 of the towns 8,900 residents were sickened. One death was associated with the outbreak.

Johnny’s Fine Foods of Tacoma, Wash., Johnny’s Fine Foods is recalling French Dip Powdered Au Jus in 6 oz. bottles and French Dip Powdered Au Jus in 1.1 oz. foil packets, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Johnny’s French Dip Powdered Au Jus is distributed nationwide and is sold in retail stores.

Johnny’s French Dip Powdered Au Jus 6oz is packaged in a clear plastic bottle with a red, white and blue label. The expiration date for this product is 0332. Johnny’s French Dip Powdered Au Jus 1.1 oz. is packaged in a red, white and blue foil packet. The expiration date for this product is 02212.

American Pecan Co. of Yancey, Texas, is recalling 1 lb. bags of Pecan Pieces, small, medium, and large sizes, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

The 1 lb. bags of pecans were sold to walk-up customers at their Yancey, Texas location, as well as to mail order customers in Texas, New York, and Massachusetts. The bagged pecans consist of Ziploc-type bags labeled with "PECAN PIECES (Small, Medium, or Large) Ingredients: Shelled Pecans: Repacked by: American Pecan Co. P.O. Box 151 Yancey, Texas. 78886 Net weight 1-lb. (16 oz.) 454 g. might contain Pecan shells." There are no codes associated with the products.

Salmonella is an organism, which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis, and IBS.

Bryan Gentry of the Lynchburg News & Advance covered a recent hearing of the Bankruptcy Court overseeing the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) bankruptcy. Mr. Gentry noted that “[m]ore than a year after a nationwide salmonella outbreak, victims and surviving relatives have not received any money in insurance policies held by [PCA] that a bankruptcy court judge said they should share.”

The good news is that is going to be changing soon. Within the next week, $12,000,000 will be divided between 123 people (or families) who filed claims with the bankruptcy court. In my opinion, $12,000,0000 is about $8,000,000 – $10,000,0000 short of what the actual value of the claims are. The differential will necessarily need to be picked up by re-manufacturers such as Kellogg or King Nut.

One year ago, the CDC announced that over 700 people were sickened and nine died as a result of PCA Salmonella-tainted peanut butter.