I.M. Healthy – goodness the irony.

For a bit(e) of history: In the Spring of 2017, the CDC reported that thirty-two people infected with the outbreak strains of E. coli O157:H7 were reported from 12 states – Arizona 4, California 5, Florida 2, Illinois 1, Massachusetts 1, Maryland 1, Missouri 1, New Jersey 1, Oregon 11, Virginia 2, Washington 2 and Wisconsin 1.  There were also others sickened but because stool cultures were not completed, those two people were not “officially” counted by the CDC.  One of those was the likely first illness.  had “genetic fingerprinting” been done on the E. coli O157:H7 culture, it is certainly possible that this outbreak would have been identified sooner.

Twelve people were hospitalized – some for as many as four months. Nine people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome – some will require kidney transplants. Fortunately, no deaths were reported.

Twenty-six (81%) of the 32-ill people in this outbreak were younger than 18 years.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicated that I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter manufactured by Dixie Dew was the likely source of this outbreak.

Of the 32 sick, I have had the honor of representing 21 of the sickened through the bankruptcies of I.M. Healthy and its manufacturer Dixie Dew.  All but three cases have been resolved.  One failed at mediation in the last month and is now in litigation.  A month from now we will attempt to resolve two more, and if not resolved, those too will be put into litigation.  It has been a long process for the ill, both in medical recovery, but in seeking fairness from the insurance companies and lawyers that represent the retailers and supply chain that supplied the tainted product.

The Journal of Pediatrics weighed in on the outbreak and it is worth a read.  J. Pediatrics Article (02178215xAD20B) – I am most impressed by the authors* conclusions and recommendations:

  • This investigation identified soy nut butter as the source of a multistate outbreak of STEC infections affecting mainly children.
  • The ensuing recall of all soy nut butter products the facility manufactured, totaling .1.2 million lbs, likely prevented additional illnesses.
  • Prompt diagnosis of STEC infections and appropriate specimen collection aids in outbreak detection.
  • Child care providers should follow appropriate hygiene practices to prevent secondary spread of enteric illness in child care settings.
  • Firms should manufacture ready-to- eat foods in a manner that minimizes the risk of contamination.

*Rashida Hassan, MSPH, Sharon Seelman, MS, MBA, Vi Peralta, MPH, Hillary Booth, MPH, Mackenzie Tewell, MA, MPH, CPH, Beth Melius, RN, MN, MPH, Brooke Whitney, PhD, Rosemary Sexton, BS, Asha Dwarka, BS, Duc Vugia, MD, MPH, Jeff Vidanes, BS, David Kiang, PhD, Elysia Gonzales, RN, MPH, Natasha Dowell, MPH, Samantha M. Olson, MPH, Lori M. Gladney, MS, Michael A. Jhung, MD, Karen P. Neil, MD, MSPH.