E. coli outbreak traced to organic spinach; product was distributed nationwide
Officials are investigating a new E. Coli O157:H7 outbreak that is linked to two brands of prepackaged baby spinach. The FDA is investigating farms linked to the spinach.
“One case reported eating Josie’s Organics organic baby spinach purchased from HyVee, and the other case reported Fresh Thyme organic baby spinach purchased from Fresh Thyme. Both brands are produced by Braga Fresh,” according to Minnesota public health officials.
The outbreak spans seven states so far and has sickened at least 10 people. Of eight people with the information available, two have been so sick that they had to be admitted to hospitals. No deaths have been reported, according to an outbreak announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Josie’s Organics reports distributing the spinach nationwide to retailers. A package of the implicated spinach had a best-by date of Oct. 23. The CDC did not report whether other best-by dates are involved. The CDC did not post any product photographs.
Whole genome sequencing of samples from patients matched, indicating a common source of contamination.
“Minnesota officials found E. coli O157:H7 in a package of leftover Josie’s Organics baby spinach collected from a sick person’s home. Five people in this outbreak (out of six interviewed) reported eating spinach in the week before they got sick and one reported Josie’s Organics brand,” according to the CDC.
“Investigators are working to determine if additional products may be contaminated.”
The FDA is tracing back the supply of the baby spinach in the positive product sample. Thus far, FDA has traced supply chains for this product back to a small number of farms in two different geographic regions and is deploying investigators along the supply chains of interest, according to an FDA update.
As of this morning the Food and Drug Administration had not reported any recalls related to the outbreak. It is not uncommon for there to be no recalls during outbreaks related to leafy greens because of their short shelf life and the length of time it takes to identify an outbreak.
The CDC reports that the confirmed patients became ill between Oct. 15 and 27. They range in age from 2 to 71 years old. Seventy percent of the sick people are female.
More patients are likely to be identified because of the length of time it takes for confirmation testing and reporting to federal officials, which can take more than a month in some cases.
About E. coli infections
Anyone who has eaten any of the implicated spinach and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.
The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 5 percent to 10 percent of those who are diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.
Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or die. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than 5 years old because of their immature immune systems; older adults because of deteriorating immune systems; and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.
People who experience HUS symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately. People with HUS should be hospitalized because it can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage and neurologic problems.
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