December 2, 2023

Largest Multi-State Food Poisoning Outbreaks of 2013: #7

Farm-Rich-Mozzarella-Bites-An E. coli outbreak linked to Farm Rich frozen products was the seventh-largest, multi-state food poisoning outbreak of 2013. The 19-state outbreak sickened 35 people from December 2012 through April 2013.

Lab tests on Farm Rich products from patients’ homes established that Farm Rich brand frozen food products were the source of this outbreak. Farm Rich issued a recall for products with “best by” dates ranging from January 1, 2013 to September 29, 2014. The recalled products, which included Mozzarella Bites, Mini Pizza Slices, Mini Quesadillas and Philly Cheese Steaks, were distributed nationwide to retail and foodservice locations.

Retailers that sold the product included: Alco, Food Lion, Food City, Price Chopper Ralph’s, Safeway, Schnuck’s, Supervalu, Target, and Winn Dixie. In some areas, the recalled products were served at schools. Of the 10 million pounds products that were recalled, about 300,000 pounds were sold to schools.

Most of the outbreak victims were young adults, teenagers and children. About 82 percent of those infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121 (STEC O121) were 21 years of age or younger. Just under a third, 31 percent, were hospitalized.  Two people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious, sometimes life-threatening condition that develops after some E.coli infections.

The case count, by state, was as follows: Alabama (1), Arkansas (1), California (1), Colorado (1), Florida (2), Illinois (2), Indiana (2), Michigan (3), Mississippi (1), Missouri (1), New York (4), Ohio (6), Pennsylvania (1), South Dakota (1), Texas (3), Utah (1), Virginia (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (2).

The outbreak highlighted two consumer food safety issues. First, that processed foods can be contaminated with bacteria and second, that cooking instructions are a key food safety step. Most pre-packaged frozen foods require thorough cooking, not just thawing and warming up in the microwave. Foods that can’t be stirred, such as pizza, burgers and snack food items can be tricky to heat thoroughly and evenly in a microwave. When cooking foods in the microwave, it’s best to know the wattage and follow directions carefully.



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