December 15, 2017

Michigan E. coli Cases Linked to Unpasteurized Cider

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan, along with Community Health and the Michigan Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development are investigating a series of E. coli infections that may be associated with unpasteurized, unlabeled apple juice in Antrim County. Officials are collecting stool samples and samples of the cider to test for the outbreak strain of the bacteria.

The cider was made by an unlicensed facility and was not labeled as unpasteurized. Public health officials warn that it’s important to purchase cider from licensed facilities and vendors. Unpasteurized cider, along with raw milk and under-cooked meat, have been the cause of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) bacterial outbreaks in the past.

The FDA says that most juice sold in the U.S. is pasteurized. When fruits and vegetables are squeezed to make juice, bacteria present on the produce can become part of the finished product. The produce can be contaminated by farm field runoff, wild animals, or improper handling. If juice is unpasteurized and sold in supermarkets, it is required to carry a warning label. Juice sold at orchards, farm stands, and in some restaurants and juice bars is not required to have this warning label.

The symptoms of a STEC infection include abdominal pain, worsening or bloody diarrhea, and sometimes vomiting. If you have consumed apple cider and are experiencing these symptoms, see your health care provider immediately. A STEC infection can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can destroy the kidneys if left untreated. Young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems face the greatest risk of this complication.

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