Cookie Dough E. coli Outbreak Grows

The <"">E. coli outbreak linked to contaminated Nestlé cookie dough continues to grow. CNN reports that those who are falling ill is still increasing, citing federal health officials.

To date, 72 people have been reportedly infected with E. coli strain O157:H7 that also contains a specific DNA fingerprint that has been reported from an astounding 30 states, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported CNN. Of the 72 ill, 51 are confirmed stricken with the outbreak strain. Confirmation is pending on the remaining patients.

The majority of those sickened—two-thirds or 65 percent—are under the age of 19 and most are women—three-quarters or 71 percent; the age range is from two to 65 years of age, said CNN. No deaths have been reported; however, 34 people have been hospitalized and 10 of those have been diagnosed with the dangerous, sometimes deadly, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), reported CNN.

On June 19, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and the CDC warned consumers not to eat any varieties of prepackaged Nestlé Toll House refrigerated cookie dough due to the risk of contamination with E. coli O157:H7. The warning was based on an epidemiological study conducted by the CDC and several state and local health departments. The plant that produced the tainted dough has been closed since June 18, said CNN.

Yesterday we wrote that the FDA announced it found E. coli O157:H7 in a sample of prepackaged Nestlé Toll House refrigerated cookie dough currently under recall by the manufacturer and marketer, Nestlé USA. The contaminated sample was collected at Nestlé’s facility in Danville, Virginia on June 25, 2009. The contamination was found in an “unopened package of raw chocolate chip cookie dough,” according to CNN, and was produced at Nestlé’s Danville plant on February 10. A Nestlé spokeswoman said the contaminated dough was in a 16.5-ounce package with day code 9041 and the words “best before 10 JUN 2009,” reported CNN.

Meanwhile, we reported last week that officials at Nestlé’s Danville, Virginia facility legally refused—on several occasions—to provide FDA officials access to certain records during inspections, citing the Wall Street Journal. That facility has been implicated in the multi-state E. coli O157:H7 outbreak.

When the FDA issued its warning to consumers to not eat any varieties of Prepackaged Nestlé Toll House refrigerated cookie dough, it said that dozens of E. coli illnesses might be related to consumption of raw cookie dough; Nestlé recalled 300,000 cases of those cookie dough products and announced the temporary closing of its Danville, Virginia plant because of the E. coli outbreak. Inspectors from the FDA have been at the plant trying to determine how the cookie dough might have come in contact with E. coli. According to the CDC, E. coli O157:H7 has not been previously associated with eating raw cookie dough.

An earlier Journal report stated that during some inspections over the past five years, officials at the Nestlé plant in Danville refused to allow the FDA to look at records relating to issues such as pest control. For instance, in 2006 an FDA inspector was not permitted access to consumer complaints, and was not able to inspect the facility’s food contamination prevention program. During that inspection, dirty equipment and “three live ant-like insects” were noted, but these were insufficient to give the facility a failing grade, the Journal said. According to the Journal, in most instances, companies are not required to show those types of records to the FDA, and such refusals are not uncommon.

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