E. coli Outbreak Linked to Frozen Foods

Tainted frozen food has led to a multi-state outbreak of E. coli infections that has sickened and hospitalized a number of people across 15 states.

According to health officials, 24 people have reportedly fallen ill; eight people, mostly children and teens, have required hospitalization, said The Huffington Post. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that illnesses have been received, to date, in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. All of the 18 people interviewed reported consuming frozen food products and eight of 14 ill persons reported consuming Farm Rich brand frozen food products.

Rich Products recalled Farm Rich mini quesadillas, cheese steaks, mini pizza slices, and mozzarella bites produced November 12 – 19, 2012, said The Daily Press. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the recall and indicated that more than 196,000 pounds of the frozen foods are involved. Rich Products is advising consumers to discard the recalled frozen food products and contact the firm to receive either product replacement or a refund, said The Daily Press. Rich Products may be reached at its toll-free Customer Relations number at 1.888.220.5955 or its website at www.farmrich.com

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the recalled Farm Rich products were distributed in retail stores nationwide. Market Day® is a fundraising food cooperative that distributed the Mozzarella Bites, which are partially baked, dough enrobed, snack items that consumers bake or microwave.

E. coli are a group of bacteria typically found in animal intestines and feces. While some strains are necessary for digestion, some are harmful, deadly, and toxin producing and part of a group of E. coli called Verocytotoxigenic E. coli, or VTECs, also known as Shiga-producing E. coli (STEC). These bacteria may cause severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, and bloody stool; in the most severe cases, this infection can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious disease in which red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail. Infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk.

The type of bacteria responsible for this outbreak is among those referred to as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli or STEC. The STEC O121 PFGE pattern in this outbreak is rare. In fact, in the past it has been seen less than 30 times.

The CDC announced that of those sickened in this outbreak, 78 percent have been 21 years of age or younger and 33 percent have required hospitalization. One of those people who were sickened developed HUS. No deaths have been reported.

CDC and state public health officials are interviewing those who have fallen ill and, based on available information, consumption of Farm Rich brand frozen food products is one likely source of infection for those sickened in this outbreak. In fact, testing conducted by the New York State Department of Health, Wadsworth Center Laboratory, identified the outbreak strain of STEC O121 in an open package of Farm Rich brand frozen chicken quesadillas from an ill person’s home.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) and the FDA are also conducting investigations to determine the source of infections in this outbreak.

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