October 3, 2022

Authorities Unable to Find Source of Neff’s Picnic E. coli 0157:H7 Outbreak

Dayton & Montgomery County public health authorities have been unable to find the cause of the E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak that sickened 79 people and killed one person. Two people contracted secondary cases of the infection from person-to-person contact. The outbreak was linked to the Neff’s Lawn Care customer appreciation picnic that took place in Germantown, Ohio on July 3, 2012.

E. coli PhotosOf those sickened in the outbreak, twenty people tested positive for the outbreak strain of the bacteria and 14 people were hospitalized. Three of those hospitalized developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, and one 73-year-old man died. The investigation covered where the foods at the picnic came from, how the food was stored, handled, and maintained before and at the event, and an environmental assessment of the site.

Authorities also interviewed 117 people who attended the picnic, and conducted an epidemiological analysis of that data. In addition, the Ohio Department of health, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and the USDA were involved in the investigation.

The outbreak investigation began on July 9, but by that time there were no foods left for authorities to examine. The food at the picnic was provided by the host, Neff’s Lawn Care, and by attendees who brought their own food. The food served at the picnic included two hogs that were roasted off-site and delivered to the picnic, along with hamburgers and hot dogs. None of the meat items, which are typically the source of E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria, were conclusively linked to the outbreak.

Authorities also took water samples of the wells at the picnic site, and environmental samples at the farm where the hogs were produced and slaughtered. Because there was no inventory of carried-in foods, most of the food items were not analyzed. The picnic was not a licensed event so it was unregulated, so PHDMC couldn’t verify cooking, cooling, holding, or reheating temperatures or food handling practices.

The report ends with these words: “This outbreak illustrates the importance of proper food handling as CDC estimates that about 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne illness.

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