By: Candess Zona-Mendola

It has been a week and a half since the last expansion of cases related to the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to The SoyNut Butter Company’s I.M. Healthy Brand SoyNut butter. The SoyNut Butter Company, in light of recent media attention and lawsuits, has updated their recall notices to include Dixie Dew as their confirmed third party contract manufacturer of its products.

As of today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have linked additional cases and expanded the outbreak map. Investigations are still ongoing, and the outbreak is still open. It is unknown at this point if any further cases may be linked. UnsafeFoods is continuing to follow this outbreak and provide periodic updates.

Dixie Dew Confirmed as Contract Manufacturer by The SoyNut Butter Company

According to The SoyNut Butter Company’s website, under the March 9, 2017 notice:

“Recall update: We received a call from the FDA last night and was told of a positive E. Coli test in Oregon. Samples from our contract manufacturer Dixie Dew Products are still being tested, and we will update as soon as we can.

This latest news is deeply concerning to us and as we work with the FDA and CDC, we urge consumers to heed the recall of all I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter and I.M. Healthy Granola products. For over 20 years we have tried to give you exemplary products. Once we heard from the FDA about any possible problems, we immediately recalled the suspected lots, then expanded to our entire line of SoyNut Butters and Granola. We thank you for your support and will update you as quickly as we can.”

The company still has yet to name a supplier.

Case Counts and Epi Curves

On March 30, 2017, the CDC confirmed that there were an additional 6 cases linked to the outbreak. Additional states have also been added to the case counts. Florida, Illinois, and Massachusetts were the additional states added to the outbreak this time. Two additional people were found to have developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. This means 29 people are confirmed through positive testing and genetic matching to have been infected with the rare strain of E. coli O157:H7 in 12 states. Currently, the cases are broken down as follows:

Map: People infected with the outbreak strains of E. coli O157:H7, by state of residence, as of March 28, 2017 (n=29)

  • Arizona – 4 cases
  • California – 5 cases
  • Florida – 1 case
  • Illinois – 1 case
  • Massachusetts – 1 case
  • Maryland – 1 case
  • Missouri – 1 case
  • New Jersey – 1
  • Oregon – 9
  • Virginia – 2
  • Washington – 2
  • Wisconsin – 1

According to the CDC’s updated outbreak webpage, it appears that they believe there are more cases that may be identified and linked to the outbreak. They represent “Illnesses that started after March 7, 2017 might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of 2 to 4 weeks.” Their latest Epi Curve (or chart) related to the outbreak is as follows:

Chart: *n=29 for whom information was reported as of March 28, 2017. Some illness onset dates have been estimated from other reported information.

Outbreak Statistics

We have created a quick list of outbreak statistics and frequently asked questions for you to keep in the know of the changes relating to this outbreak. Without further ado:

  • When did the victims become ill? Illnesses started on dates ranging from January 4, 2017, to March 13, 2017.
  • What are the ages of those ill? The majority of the victims are under the age of 18. According to the latest CDC statistics, “ill people range in age from 1 to 57 years, with a median age of 8. Twenty-four (83%) of the 29 ill people are younger than 18 years”
  • What are the genders of those who are sick? Over half of those sick are male.
  • How many have been hospitalized? Twelve people have been hospitalized, some for many weeks.
  • Did anyone develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)? Yes, nine people developed HUS. E. coli lawsuit   Hemolytic uremic syndrome lawsuit
  • Has anyone died? We are happy to report that no deaths have thus far been linked to this outbreak.
  • Are there more coming? The CDC tells us that illnesses that happened after March 7, 2017 may not yet be reported. It takes significant time to report illness, obtain specimens for testing, await results, update the national database, and then link the cases to the outbreak. As it is believed the majority of foodborne illnesses go unreported, it is a great idea to report any illness as soon as possible.

Investigation Ongoing

The CDC does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon on this investigation. With the idea that there may be new cases, and potentially products, linked to the outbreak, the CDC is quick to remind the public that their investigation is still ongoing. According to their latest website updates:

“In interviews, ill people or their family members answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became ill. Twenty-one (75%) of the 28 people reached for interview reported either eating I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter at home (15 people) in the week before they became ill, attending a facility that served I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter (2 people), or attending childcare centers that served I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter and I.M. Healthy brand granola coated with SoyNut Butter (4 people).”

The CDC is still working in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as new and old state local health departments. As specimens from those infected with the outbreak strain are tested for generic similarity to the confirmed strain, we may be waiting another month or more to know whether more cases are linked.

Products on Recall; More Products May Be Recalled

Recalls in this outbreak have been happening on a weekly basis it seems since the first week of March. For an easy and quick breakdown on recalls, we have another list for you:

  • March 4, 2017 – The SoyNut Butter Company recalled select I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter products after contact from the FDA
  • March 7, 2017 – The SoyNut Butter Company expanded its recall to include all varieties of I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butters and all varieties of I.M. Healthy Granola products.
  • March 10, 2017 – Dixie Diner’s Club brand Carb Not Beanit Butter is recalled.
  • March 211, 2017 – SoLo GI brand energy bars are recalled in Canada.
  • March 23, 2017 – 20/20 Lifestyle Yogurt Peanut Crunch Bars recall their products because they contain a recalled ingredient.

Now that the mystery manufacturer has been named, additional product recalls may be forthcoming in the near future.

Medical Attention; Reporting is Crucial

If you have ingested any product contained in our lists above and have become ill, urgent medical attention is highly recommended. Your physician can order a simple stool test to confirm if you have become infected with E. coli O157:H7. It is a good idea to urge your medical provider to inform your local health department of any positive E. coli O157:H7 test results, or any other foodborne pathogens for that matter.

For more information on E. coli, this outbreak, and its related recalls, please visit us on UnsafeFoods.com.

 

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2017/o157h7-03-17/index.html

https://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm545368.htm

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/about-the-cfia/newsroom/food-recall-warnings/complete-listing/2017-03-11/eng/1489283804560/1489283807818

http://www.soynutbutter.com/Section/About_Us/Press_and_Media/The_SoyNut_Butter_Co_Recalls_I-2E-M-2E-_Healthy_Original_Creamy_SoyNut_Butter_Because_of_Possible_Hea.html?PHPSESSID=d428f4002d59471b10217b549f9badce