This is the first of a three part series. You can read part 2 here and part 3 here

By:  Jory D. Lange, Jr.

Local and state public health departments across the nation are pitching in to provide resources to parents with children affected by national “I.M. Healthy” brand SoyNut Butter E. coli outbreak and recall.  Here is a summary of what is currently known about the E. coli outbreak in each of these states and the resources available to parents in Arizona, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon.

Portland, Oregon – Resources for Parents

The Multnomah County Health Department reports that seven people (six children and one adult) at the Montessori of Alameda school became ill with E. coli infections.  All six children were part of the same classroom.  Four of the seven people have confirmed E. coli O157:H7 infections.  Two people’s E. coli infections have the same serotype or “genetic fingerprint” as the E. coli strain involved in the national “I.M. Healthy” brand SoyNut Butter outbreak.  Three more people have shiga-toxin producing E. coli infections (STEC).  Further testing is pending to determine whether these three people are also infected with the same I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter E. Coli strain.

Multnomah County’s Deputy Healthy Officer, Jennifer Vines, reported that “We are working closely with families, staff, and school administrators to stop the spread of this infection and understand how this outbreak happened.”  Ms. Vines recommended that anyone who has I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter or granola coated with SoyNut Butter in their homes immediately throw it out or return it to the store.

The Health Department advises any parents to keep their children home from school if they have vomiting or diarrhea.  “Most people become ill from E. coli eating contaminated foods which have not been fully cooked, but E. coli can also spread from person to person – especially in families and in childcare facilities.”

Multnomah County parents with questions can reach the Multnomah County Health Department Communicable Disease Services team at 503.988.3406.  More information about E. coli O 157:H7 is available from the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/.

Arizona – Resources for Parents

Four people in Arizona have contracted shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157 (“STEC”).  The Arizona State Public Health Laboratory’s testing confirmed that these four people have each been infected with “the outbreak strain of STEC O157 bacteria.”

Dr. Cara Christ, Director for the Arizona Department of Health Services, reports that E. coli O 157 usually originates in contaminated food or drink.  “But people can also get sick after coming in contact with another infected person, or after contact with animals, like cattle or other livestock[.]”

“Individuals with symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping should seek medical attention if they develop bloody diarrhea or cannot drink enough fluids to keep hydrated,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “We are asking healthcare providers to get stool cultures if they suspect E. coli especially in young children.”

“Illness from E. coli can be very serious especially for vulnerable people such as pregnant women, young children, older adults, and people with immune systems compromised by disease,” said Marie Peoples, chief health officer for the Coconino County Public Health Services District. “It’s important that everyone take appropriate precautions to protect against foodborne illness by thorough hand washing with soap and water prior to food preparation or consumption.”

Dr. Cara Christ recommends that “Anyone who is sick with symptoms of E. coli O157 infection should seek medical care.”

Maryland- Resources for Parents

The CDC confirms that one person in Maryland has contracted the outbreak strain of E. coli O 157:H7.  Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (“Maryland DHMH”) was the first health agency in the nation to publicly link the current E. coli O157:H7 outbreak to “I.M. Healthy” brand SoyNut Butter.  On March 2, 2107, the Maryland Department of Health issued a public health alert “warning consumers not to eat ‘I.M. Healthy’ brand soy nut butter and soy nut butter-containing products from ‘The SoyNut Butter Company” until further notice because of possible contamination with E. coli O157 bacteria.”  Maryland’s DHMH is hosting the “Soy Butter Blog” on its website, where it “is continuing to warn consumers not to eat I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter and SoyNut Butter-containing products from the SoyNut Butter Company until further notice because of possible contamination with E. coli O157 bacteria.”  Consumers can contact the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at 410.767.6500, 877.463.3464, or through the agency’s website.

Missouri- Resources for Parents

The CDC reports that one person in New Jersey has contracted the outbreak strain of E. coli O 157:H7.  The Missouri Department of Health and Human Services has posted the various SoyNut Butter recalls on its website.  The Department of Health can be reached at 573. 751.6113 or through its website.

New Jersey- Resources for Parents

The CDC reports that one person in New Jersey has contracted the outbreak strain of E. coli O 157:H7.  New Jersey Department of Health spokeswoman, Donna Leusner, reported that an Essex County child became ill in early January.  The child became ill as part of a national E. coli outbreak linked to the “I.M. Healthy” brand SoyNut Butter and granola coated with SoyNut Butter.  The New Jersey Department of Health can be contacted through their website.  The Essex County Department of Health and Rehabilitation can be contacted at 973.571.2800

Virginia- Resources for Parents

The CDC reports that one person in Virginia has contracted the outbreak strain of E. coli O 157:H7.  The Virginia Department of Health has reported on this outbreak.  Virginia’s Department of Health can be contacted at 804.864.8141, 804.864.7454 or through its website.

Wisconsin- Resources for Parents

The CDC reports that one person in Wisconsin has contracted the outbreak strain of E. coli O 157:H7.  Milwaukee’s CBS 58 WDJT has provided coverage of the outbreak.  The Wisconsin Department of Health Services  in Madison can be contacted at 608.266.1865 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Most Foodborne Illnesses Go Unreported

The overwhelming majority of foodborne illnesses in the United States are never reported to public health agencies.  Local and state health agencies recommend that patients diagnosed with food poisoning report cases of food poisoning.  As Maryland’s DHMH puts it, “Reporting cases of known or suspected infectious diseases to public health authorities in Maryland serves to protect the public’s health by ensuring the proper identification and follow-up of cases.  Public health workers at both local and state levels follow individual cases to ensure proper treatment, identify potential sources of infection, provide education to reduce the risk of transmission, identify susceptible contacts, and take other measures aimed at reducing the spread of disease.  Analysis of data across all cases helps to monitor the impact of those conditions, measure trends, identify areas of risk, detect outbreaks, monitor control efforts, and allocate resources effectively.”  To make it easier to report instances of serious foodborne illness in your state, UnsafeFoods.com has compiled a fifty state list of health departments and their contact information.

Continuing Coverage for Parents

At UnsafeFoods.com, we are providing continuing coverage of the “I.M. Healthy” brand SoyNut Butter E. coli O157 outbreak and recall.

Robins Cloud filed the second E. coli lawsuit in the nation against The SoyNut Butter Company on March 8, 2017.  Robins Cloud LLP is a national law firm dedicated to helping families who have been harmed by large corporations. Robins Cloud LLP helps victims of defective products and foodborne illnesses. The firm is providing free, no-obligation legal consultations to the families whose children may have been harmed.