In July 2002, a group of teenage girls who had recently attended a drill team dance camp at Eastern Washington University reported diarrheal illness. The Washington State Department of Health’s Public Health Laboratory later confirmed that the illnesses were due to E. coli poisoning.
The Spokane Regional Health District received reports of other cases of E. coli at around the same time, so a broader investigation was started. 55 of the infected had worked at or attended the dance camp. An additional 14 infected had attended a church camp.
The dance camp outbreak was identified as being a result of contaminated romaine lettuce that was shredded, bagged, and sold by Spokane Produce.
The infections at the church camp was determined to be a secondary infection from the dance camp outbreak – several attendees of the dance camp had subsequently gone to the church camp.
Additional small outbreaks were reported at a cafeteria dinner on a Spokane campus, lunch the following day from the same cafeteria, a restaurant salad in Spokane County, romaine purchased at several Spokane area grocery stores, two restaurant salads in Walla Walla County, and romaine served at a restaurant in a Midwestern State. All outbreaks were determined to have originated from Spokane Produce.