November 2007

The USDA is proposing that they ask the public about whether the leafy green industry should be further regulated.

More regulation is the USDA’s response to several E. coli outbreaks that have been the result of consumption of contaminated produce.

One option is a national version of the industry-developed standards that followed the E. coli outbreak and now govern California farmers and leafy green handlers. The USDA is considering both voluntary and mandatory standards, officials say, but favors a voluntary program that allows flexibility.

California and Arizona leafy greens producers have already signed marketing agreements that were designed to encourage good manufacturing practices across their industry, and the United Fresh Produce Association has asked the government to step in and regulate farming and processing practices for leafy greens.
 

dole spinach ecoli outbreakThe Associated Press broke the story yesterday that a Wisconsin family’s E. coli lawsuit – one stemming from the 2006 spinach E. coli outbreak – had been resolved without going to trial.  Dinesh Ramde, AP business writer, wrote:

The agreement was reached in October but not filed in federal court until last week. It still needs approval from a federal judge, which Marler said he is confident will happen.

The national outbreak in September 2006 was traced to tainted spinach produced by Natural Selection Foods LLC. Three people died, including 77-year-old Marion Graff of Manitowoc.

Of the 204 people sickened by the tainted greens, Marler said about 100 have brought a lawsuit. His firm is handling 83 cases and has resolved 51 within the past few months.

On September 14, 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that a nationwide E. coli outbreak had been associated with the consumption of bagged baby spinach. For fear of E. coli contamination, all bagged spinach was recalled nationwide, and on September 19, 2006, FDA announced that all spinach implicated in the outbreak had been traced back to Natural Selection Foods, a company located in California’s Salinas Valley.

FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 204 E. coli illnesses associated with the spinach E. coli outbreak, including thirty-one cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, 104 hospitalizations, and three deaths. Victims of the E. coli outbreak were identified in 26 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Wisconsin was the state hardest-hit in the outbreak, with 49 confirmed cases of E. coli. Canada reported one confirmed case.

A joint trace back by FDA and the State of California revealed that four spinach fields were the possible source of the E. coli contamination. The outbreak strain of E. coli was isolated from cattle fields nearby the implicated spinach fields, as well as from a wild boar that was killed in one of the fields.

Stephanie Smith E. coliSharon Smith, the mother of Stephanie Smith, a Minnesota resident who has been hospitalized for months after eating a hamburger and becoming ill with E. coli poisoning, spoke with Kirsti Marohn of the St. Cloud Times for an article that appeared in today’s paper.  She shared the story of the few days before Stephanie became ill with symptoms of E. coli infection, and of her hospitalization. 

The 20-year-old dance instructor has undergone intensive medical treatment while doctors work to support her body.  Five days after becoming ill, Stephanie was hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome and was placed in a coma when she began having seizures.  As Kristi Marohn wrote:

Two months later, she remains in critical condition at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester, fighting for her life against a severe case of E. coli poisoning.

Doctors have told Sharon that Stephanie remains extremely critical. She was diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome, caused when E. coli toxins enter the bloodstream.

The severity of her case is very rare, similar to only a handful of others worldwide. Still, Sharon hasn’t given up hope that her only daughter, with her wide smile and warm personality, will pull through.

There are hopeful signs. Stephanie’s kidneys have started functioning again, and she no longer needs dialysis. But there are setbacks, too. Her tongue has swelled so doctors have had to prop her mouth open and put an oxygen mask on her. So far, attempts to lower the coma-inducing drugs have resulted in more seizures. She continues to breathe with the help of a respirator.

Stephanie’s is one of the most severe E. coli cases reported on in recent years, but she is not alone.  Other E. coli victims from outbreaks this fall have also been hospitalized for lengthy periods – at least one other in a coma

American Foods Group of Green Bay, Wisconsin, has recalled over 95,000 pounds of ground beef products for E. coli contamination after the Illinois Department of Health confirmed consumers in that state had become ill with E. coli infections after eating AFG ground beef products.

American Foods Group of Green Bay, Wisconsin, has recalled over 95,000 pounds of ground beef products for E. coli contamination after the Illinois Department of Health confirmed consumers in that state had become ill with E. coli infections after eating AFG ground beef products.

E. coli In September, an E. coli outbreak among students at Galena Elementary School perplexed health officials.  Several children became ill with E. coli and a source of the outbreak was elusive.  The sibling of two students at Galena Elementary battled an E. coli infection during the outbreak, and continues to recover after being on dialysis.  His mother has been hospitalized since she became ill with E. coli over 52 days ago. 

WAVE3 TV out of St. Louis, Missouri, reported the story of Amelia Seraiah’s E. coli illness and hospitalization last night:

A Floyd County woman watched her son battle a deadly strain of E. coli back in September. Now she’s hospitalized with the same illness. But her health isn’t the only problem the single mother of five is facing.

It was 52 days ago — on September 30th — when Amelia Seraiah came down with the deadly bacteria. Her children are now staying with family members, who say they just pray she makes a full recovery.

Sharon Peltier has a lot to be thankful for this week. Her 3-year-old grandson, William, is off dialysis and doing better. He spent 17 days last month in Kosair Children’s Hospital. Now Peltier’s daughter (William’s mother) is in Norton Hospital, fighting the same illness: E. coli.

Amelia isn’t the only person battling an E. coli infection who will spend Thanksgiving in the hospital.  7-year-old Jayden Moss, of Willard, Utah, is expected to remain hospitalized until February.  He became ill with an E. coli infection earlier this fall and has suffered brain damage due to neurological involvement of HUS.  According to KSL.com:

Jayden is now at the learning level of an infant after developing Hemalitic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) from E. coli.

“He started throwing up and diarrhea,” his mother, Rachael, said.

It eventually shut down his kidneys, and blood vessels in his body began bursting, causing severe brain damage. “Right now he doesn’t walk, doesn’t talk, he doesn’t eat on his own, he’s fed by a machine,” Jayden’s father, Jeremiah, explained.

According to the KSL story, Jayden’s first-grade classmates have raised $6,500 to help his family pay their medical bills.

Matt Roberts, a Mattoon High School senior from Mattoon, Illinois, became ill with an E. coli infection just before an E. coli outbreak was traced to El Rancherito restaurant in Effingham last September.

His E. coli infection progressed to hemolytic uremic syndrome and he was hospitalized for over a month.  While hospitalized, Matt was placed in a medically-induced coma for ten days, and underwent dialysis and blood and plasma transfusions.  Even after he was released from the hospital, Matt continued to receive plasma transfusions.

The Coles County Health Department worked to identify the source of his E. coli infection but has thus far been unable to determine the source of his illness.

In an editorial titled, "Is the meat you buy safe enough?" that appears online at the Eco-Logic Powerhouse website, Henry Lamb evaluates the state of the meat industry and USDA’s role in it, including the recent E. coli outbreaks linked to meat produced at Topps and Cargill.

In the editorial, Mr. Lamb analyzes what in his view is the inadequacy of the current USDA inspection system and discusses USDA’s current efforts to implement an animal tracking system – which he believes is completely unnecessary.

Mr. Lamb addressed the argument that irradiation will make food safer, and suggests that if food irradiation is implemented, there will be less pressure on slaughterhouses to prevent contamination.
 

The Tennessee State Department of Health and CDC are collaborating with public health officials in multiple states and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to investigate an ongoing multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections.

Frozen pizza that contained pepperoni and was produced by the General Mills company under the brand names of Totino’s or Jeno’s was the likely source of the illness.

As of November 1st, at least 21 confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 have been collected. At least 8 people have been hospitalized, and 4 have developed a type of kidney failure known as hemolytic-uremic syndrome.
 

Five-year-old Aubrey Anderson is undergoing dialysis treatments at a Wichita hospital to combat the effects of hemolytic uremic syndrome secondary to E. coli infection. The child has been hospitalized for 18 days.

Aubrey remains on a feeding tube, which goes down through her nose and bypasses her stomach into her intestines. She continues to frequently vomit, however, which displaces the feeding tube.

The Des Moines Register reported this morning that an Iowa E. coli case might be connected to the E. coli outbreak that was traced back to consumption of Totino’s and Jeno’s pizzas earlier this month.  According to the story, testing is still being conducted, and the epidemiologic investigation has not yet concluded that the pizza was the source of the Iowan’s illness; however, the investigation is ongoing.  Nigel Duara wrote:

totino's ecoli outbreakDr. Patricia Quinlisk of the Iowa Department of Public Health said Tuesday that either a person in western Iowa contracted a strain of E. coli that matches the DNA "fingerprint" of the E. coli bacterium involved in a national frozen pizza recall, or the person’s history involves consumption of the tainted product.

The bacterium in the recall is blamed for sickening 23 people in 12 other states, including bordering states South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Quinlisk said the department has investigated three cases. Two did not match the strain found in the pepperoni in Totino’s and Jeno’s pizzas, but one case is still under investigation.

"We’re still waiting for some further information," Quinlisk said Tuesday. "We don’t know it’s definitely here. Two (cases) were proved not to be here."

General Mills announced on November 1, 2007, that the company was recalling its Totino’s Crisp Crust Party pizzas and Jeno’s Crisp ‘N Tasty pizzas for possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination. The recall was initiated after over 20 people became ill with E. coli infections after eating the pizzas.

The pizzas were produced on or before October 30, and were distributed nationwide. Each package is marked with “EST. 7750” inside the USDA seal of inspection, and has a “best if used by” date on or before April 2, 2008.