CDC, public health and regulatory officials in several states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are collecting different types of data to investigate a multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections. Epidemiologic data show that Raw Farm brand raw cheddar cheese is making people in this outbreak sick.
Since the last update, one new illness and one new state were reported. One sick person in New Jersey reported eating raw cheddar cheese during travel to Colorado in the week before they got sick. As of February 28, 2024, a total of 11 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli have been reported from 5 states – New Jersey, Texas, Colorado, Utah and California. Illnesses started on dates ranging from October 18, 2023, to February 5, 2024. Of 11 people with information available, 5 have been hospitalized and 2 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious condition that can cause kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.
State and local public health officials are interviewing people about the foods they ate in the week before they got sick. Of the 9 people interviewed, 7 (78%) specifically reported eating Raw Farm brand raw cheddar cheese. This percentage was significantly higher than the 4.9% of respondents who reported eating any raw milk cheese in the FoodNet Population Survey—a survey that helps estimate how often people eat various foods linked to diarrheal illness. This difference suggests that people in this outbreak got sick from eating Raw Farm brand raw cheddar cheese.
Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. CDC PulseNet manages a national database of DNA fingerprints of bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. DNA fingerprinting is performed on bacteria using a method called whole genome sequencing (WGS). WGS showed that bacteria from all sick people’s samples are closely related genetically. This suggests that people in this outbreak got sick from the same food.
Officials in California, Colorado, and Utah collected various Raw Farm products for testing including raw milk, raw butter, raw cheddar cheese, and raw kefir. So far, no samples have detected E. coli. Additional testing is ongoing.
On February 26, 2024, Raw Farm brand withdrew their recall. However, CDC continues to advise people not to eat, sell, or serve Raw Farm brand raw cheddar cheese while the investigation is ongoing.