May 2007

The Fresno County Health Department said there are now eleven confirmed cases of E. coli in Fresno County. On Thursday, May 31st, investigators are still looking for the source of the bacteria.  The Health Department has inspected the “Meat Market” in Northwest Fresno. Meat from the company may have been served at several private parties where some guests later became sick.  On Tuesday May 29th, five people were confirmed to have the potentially deadly bacteria. Three more cases were confirmed on Wednesday and another three on Thursday. All of the victims had attended one of three private parties that were all serviced by the same caterer.

The CDC’s publication, Moribidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) released today includes a summary of the ConAgra peanut butter Salmonella outbreak investigation. The report states in part:

In February 2007, a case-control study with 65 patients and 124 controls was conducted to identify the food item associated with illness; the majority of interviews were completed by state and local health departments and were coordinated by CDC. For the study, a case was defined as infection with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Tennessee in a person aged >18 years with a history of diarrhea. Controls were well adults from the patient’s community who were matched by geographic location. Controls were identified using a reverse online telephone directory that when given an address provided telephone numbers for residences in the same extended neighborhood as the patients. The median ages for the patients and controls were 53 and 58 years, respectively. Patients were more likely than controls to have eaten peanut butter (81% versus 65%, matched odds ratio [mOR] = 1.9, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.8–5.2), to have eaten peanut butter more than once a week (66% versus 40%, mOR = 3.5, CI = 1.4–9.9), and to have eaten either Peter Pan or Great Value peanut butter (67% versus 13%, mOR = 10.9, CI = 3.8–43.0). Neither the consumption of other peanut butter brands nor consumption of turkey products was associated with illness.

Epidemiologic data suggesting Peter Pan brands of peanut butter as the possible source of the outbreak were provided to FDA officials on February 13, 2007. The following day, FDA issued a health alert to consumers indicating that they should not eat Peter Pan or Great Value peanut butter with a product code beginning with 2111, both of which were manufactured in a single facility in Georgia operated by ConAgra Foods. ConAgra Foods voluntarily recalled the products, destroyed existing products in their possession, and temporarily halted production pending further investigation.

We are continuing our own investigation into nearly 5,000 claims of illness after eating the peanut butter. 

Dale Yurong of KFSN Action News first told this story Monday night.  Now it appears that there is a common link between three groups of illnesses.  See full story – excerpt below:

Leann Beck was one of six people admitted to the hospital to be treated for E. coli. She says she got sick days after a Clovis West graduation party where she had tri-tip. (Tri-tips are often mechanically tenderized which may push contamination on the surface of the meat into the interior, thereby making in far more difficult to kill).

The Fresno County Health Department says 20 cases have been reported. Dr. Ed Moreno, Fresno County Public Health Director, says, “There are actually several cases that are under investigation by public health staff. In particular, we have three private events that have come to our attention.” Each occurred May 19th. “Among these three events, there was one common supplier of food, ” says Dr. Moreno. He continues, “There was also a wedding and another graduation party and everybody narrowed it down to the meat. Everybody was picking up their meat at the same time, at the Meat Market.”

See video from Channel 47 too.

According to the Fresno Bee, Fresno County health investigators are looking for the food source of an E. coli outbreak that has sickened at least six people who attended private parties in the past two weeks. Five of the six who became ill ate food at the same party on May 19, said Fresno County Health Officer Ed Moreno.  But health workers are talking to people in attendance at two other parties held on the same day to determine if more people have become ill, Moreno said.  A number of food sources are under scrutiny, but the parties were catered by the same company, said Tim Casagrande, the county’s director of environmental health.

China food boss sentenced to death

The former head of China’s food and drug safety regulatory body has been sentenced to death for corruption. Zheng Xiaoyu was convicted by a court in Beijing on charges of taking bribes and dereliction of duty, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday. On the same day officials have announced a series of measures for recalling unsafe food products. The news comes as China’s leaders grapple with the fallout from a string of health alerts over toxins in food and other products.

I wonder if the CEO’s of companies who poison and kill thier customers here in the United Sates are thanking their lucky stars that their parents were not born in China.

As you may remember, the FDA and Con Agra made the original Peanut Butter recall announcement on February 14, 2007. Now the “official” CDC culture-confirmed (through urine, stool or blood) Salmonella Tennessee cases are 481 related to Peter Pan and Great Value. The dates of onset of illness according to the below chart is August 1, 2006 to May 22, 2007. The “official” Peanut Butter case count (all Salmonella Tennessee positives) amount to 629.

The 629 number may be all Salmonella Tennessee positives on record at the CDC in a period (perhaps the October 2004 to February 2007 recall period), or be Salmonella Tennessee positives not yet Epidemiologically linked to the Peanut Butter outbreak. The CDC estimates that for every 1 culture-positive case there are 38.6 times more actual cases. Using the CDC numbers, it is estimated that between 18,500 and 24,275 cases of Salmonella Tennessee are related to the ConAgra outbreak.  I expect that the CDC will publish the above chart and confirm the outbreak numbers in the next week.

I wrote about the increasing numbers in a blog post on April 12, 2007:

ConAgra Salmonella Tennessee Cases Grow

I have learned that the current Salmonella Tennessee case stool and urine positives (substantial numbers of ill people had urinary tract infections instead of stool cultures) have raised to 563 in 47 States. The first reported case is in August 2006 and remaining constant, but low, through September, spiking in October, November, December and then starting to trend down in January and February 2007. There does not appear to be a significant number of matched Salmonella Tennessee cases pre-August 2006 (ten in August and thirteen January to July 2006 and thirty cases in 2005) that are EPI-linked to Peanut Butter despite the recall date being extended to October 2004 (I am not aware of many matched Salmonella Tennessee cases in 2004, although there may well be a few).

I also posted about this outbreak generally on March 10, 2007:

Lawyers, Lawsuits and Statistics in the Peanut Butter Wars

The CDC reported in a statement March 7, 2007, that 425 people in 44 states had been infected with the strain of Salmonella Tennessee also found in Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter products, and that 71 people had been hospitalized and no deaths. FDA investigators in the Con Agra plant also found that same Salmonella strain, but where it was located has not been announced. Two-thirds of the reported 425 cases began after December 1, 2006.

Putting this in context, the CDC estimates that 76 million foodborne illness, or food poisoning, cases occur in the United States every year (6.3 million per month), which means that one in four Americans contracts a foodborne illness annually after eating foods contaminated with such pathogens as E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Hepatitis A, Campylobacter, Shigella, Norovirus, and Listeria. Approximately 325,000 people are hospitalized with a diagnosis of food poisoning, and 5,000 die.

The CDC also reports that 40,000 cases of Salmonella are confirmed yearly in the U.S. As only about 3% of Salmonella cases are officially confirmed nationwide, and many milder cases are never diagnosed, the true incidence is undoubtedly much higher (approximately 1.4 million per year or 110,000 per month). It is estimated that 1,000 deaths are caused by Salmonella infections in the U.S. every year.

State health officials warned Thursday that alfalfa sprouts sold by a Northern California company to stores and restaurants in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington may be contaminated with salmonella bacteria. The company, Salad Cosmo USA Corp., of Dixon, announced a voluntary recall after routine tests found salmonella in alfalfa seeds. “Consumers, especially infants, young children and the elderly, are susceptible to serious infection when exposed to salmonella,” said Kevin Reilly, acting state public health officer. The Department of Health Services said Salad Cosmo was recalling two-and-a-half-ounce plastic containers and one-pound plastic bags of sprouts labeled Salad Cosmo Alfalfa Sprouts with the production codes of 0519 to 0526.

I have been advocating warnings since at least 2000 and better techniques to prevent contamination since 2003. I found the Mission Statement of Salad Cosmo Corporation interesting”

Salad Cosmo currently collaborates with professionals from all over the world to constantly improve the quality of our products and make sure that our bacterial testing is utilizing the highest technologies available.

If there ever was a question regarding the quality of our sprouts, our extensive record keeping system enables us to quickly trace each bag of product through the production and growing phases at our facility all the way to the store of purchase.

Hi, this is Remy Morritt. I have to keep saying to myself, “Don’t look down!” I am here at MarlerClark law office. Today is career day at my school, Assumption St. Bridget, and I decided I would like to see what a lawyers life would be like. Luckily, Bill Marler is a friend of my dad, and he kindly let me come to his office and bug him. Right now I am sitting 66 floors up, (even higher than the Space Needle!) typing up a passage for Bill’s blog.

I want to be a drummer in a band when I grow up, but I decided to talk to Bill because I want to become a lawyer more. I was thinking of doing damage or crime cases if I become a lawyer, but I like the idea of food poisoning like e.coli and salmonella. I am fascinated on what they are doing now, cases of poisoning from peanut butter. Apparently the peanut butter was in a packet (nasty).

I’m glad I’m doing Bill because my dad knows him, so I feel more comfortable. I also heard that he was the first to come to our house when I was born.  I also love the office, especially the view and the really nice people who work there. The pictures of all the newspaper articles interest me, seeing that there are thousands of cases of e.coli, salmonella, and other poisons. I think if I ever become a lawyer, I will be interested in food poisoning, and it will be all thanks to MarlerClark.

I was wondering why 2006 and 2007 have been the busiest years at Marler Clark.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention have stated that the rate of some foodborne illnesses such as E. coli and salmonella in the United States are on the rise.  A new report released by the United States government finds that the amounts of food born illnesses such as E. coli and salmonella are on the rise.  The report states that although it appears that e. coli and salmonella cases are on the rise, that other food born illnesses have leveled off when it comes to their infection prevalence rate.  Listeria, Shigella, Campylobacter, and Yersinia are all food born bacterial infections that according to data gathered from 10 states have fallen in prevalence since the 90’s.

Unfortunately it appears that rates of e. coli and salmonella have risen significantly, a fact that troubles health officials with the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

“As recent outbreaks have shown, too many people in the United States are getting sick each year from foodborne illnesses,” CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding told reporters in a telephone briefing.  “For instance, the outbreaks involving tomatoes, lettuce and spinach underscore the need to more effectively prevent contamination of produce,” Gerberding added. “We’re also working to strengthen our ability to quickly detect and identify foodborne illnesses. We know the faster we can detect an outbreak, the faster we can take actions that will help protect people.”

In the year of 2006, the CDC identified over 17252 cases of food poisoning in the United States. They included 6,655 cases of Salmonella, 590 cases of E. coli O157, an additional 290 cases of other disease-causing strains of E. coli, 138 cases of Listeria and 41 cases of Cyclospora.