Government health officials are investigating an E. coli outbreak that has sickened 12 people, all but one of them younger than 18-years-old, across five states. According to reports, the cause of the outbreak may likely be a popular peanut butter alternative.
According to a report from the Huffington Post, six of the people sickened by the E. coli virus were hospitalized, and four are suffering from hemolytic uremic syndrome, a life-threatening form of kidney failure that affects approximately five to 10 percent of people infected by the virus. Eleven out of the 12 patients are younger than 18-years-old, and are located in Arizona, California, Maryland, New Jersey, and Oregon.
Yesterday, the I.M. Healthy Facebook page had posted a statement advising consumers that it will be recalling Original Creamy SoyNut Butter with Best By dates of August 30 or August 31, 2018, after being alerted by FDA officials about the possible link to the E. coli outbreak. The company warned people who have purchased the affected product not to consume it, while stressing that the recall does not affect its other products, or Original Creamy SoyNut Butter with different Best By dates.
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) March 4, 2017
A more recent Facebook post from earlier this afternoon confirms that I.M. Healthy has been working closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and “should have more results” by Monday. The company also announced that it is including more Best By dates and expanding the recall.
“Next, to be on the safe side, we have expanded the voluntary recall. These affect individual cups with Best By date of 08-08-18; 4 lb tubs with Best By dates at 11-16-18 and 07-25-19; and 15 oz jars 07-05-18, 08-30-18 and 08-31-18.”
A report from the Food Poison Journal suggests that the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention met with I.M. Healthy officials to notify them of the E. coli outbreak. Expanding on the voluntary warnings posted by I.M. Healthy, the CDC is sternly warning people not to eat any of the company’s products, and advising that childcare centers and other establishments do not serve “any variety or size” of these products.
The CDC’s official website describes E. coli as a “large and diverse” group of bacteria, where some variants are harmless, and others capable of sickening individuals. This latter group is referred to as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or STEC, and this is the same type that had been associated with the widespread E. coli outbreak that had affected Chipotle restaurants in the United States in 2015. Symptoms of STEC infections typically include severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting, and on occasion, moderate fever. The CDC notes that most sufferers recover within about a week, though there are some cases that may be “severe or life-threatening.”
— Supplize, Inc. (@mySupplize) February 28, 2017
The CDC’s E. coli fact sheet also includes some information on hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), the condition that is affecting a third of the 12 sufferers in the current outbreak.
“Clues that a person is developing HUS include decreased frequency of urination, feeling very tired, and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids. Persons with HUS should be hospitalized because their kidneys may stop working and they may develop other serious problems. Most persons with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die.”
STEC can be found in the guts of cattle, goats, deer, and other ruminant animals, with cattle being the leading source. It can also be found in unpasteurized milk, or its byproducts, and apple cider, but as the CDC warns, there are various other risk factors that could increase one’s chances of getting infected, such as swallowing lake water, touching the environment in zoos and other places with animals, changing diapers, and eating food that has been prepared by people who didn’t wash their hands after using the restroom.
As of this writing, I.M. Healthy has yet to issue any comment to media outlets apart from the communications on the E. coli outbreak posted on its Facebook page.
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