February 25, 2020

What Was in the Dessert at the Twisted Fork Restaurant?

The source of the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that sickened almost two dozen people in Reno, Nevada has been identified. The outbreak at the Twisted Fork restaurant has been linked to a dessert that was manufactured, sold, and distributed by Reno Provisions.

Fancy RestaurantWashoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick said in a statement, “Our epidemiologists and environmental health staff have identified a dessert that was prepared by Reno Provisions. Several people who ate at the Twisted Fork restaurant had the dessert, as did some other people outside the Reno area who then developed the E. coli infection. That commonality led investigators to the dessert supplier, and to tests of food and equipment at Reno Provisions.”

Public health officials are now investigating the manufacturer of the dessert. All of the remaining products associated with this outbreak have been discarded. What could have been in that dessert to cause this illness?

E. coli outbreaks are usually associated with beef, raw milk, and produce, but they have also been linked to raw eggs. We don’t yet know what caused the contamination in those desserts, but eggs are a good bet. Most manufacturers use pasteurized eggs or dried egg whites to make desserts if the eggs are not cooked when making the product.

It’s also possible that an ill food handler contaminated the food. Anyone with an E. coli infection can shed the bacteria in their feces for days or weeks, even months, after the infection has ended. Some people can shed E. coli bacteria without showing any symptoms. Poor hygiene after using the bathroom can then be a source of contamination.

Since mid-October, twenty-one confirmed and probable cases of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported in Washoe County. The restaurant closed and cooperated with public health officials.

The symptoms of an E. coli infection include severe abdominal cramps, watery and/or bloody diarrhea, a mild fever, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms usually appear in six to seventy-two hours. Illness onset is sudden, with painful cramps, followed by the diarrhea.

Most people recover on their own after this infection, but some become so ill they must be hospitalized. In some patients, especially children under the age of 5, people who are mistreated with antibiotics, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems, E. coli infections can progress to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious complication.

The symptoms of an HUS infection include pale skin, lethargy, unexplained bruises, little or no urine output, bleeding from the nose or mouth, and a rash. If anyone experiences these symptoms they need to be taken to a doctor immediately.

If you or anyone you know ate at the Twisted Fork restaurant in October or November this year and experienced these symptoms, see your doctor. The long term complications of an E. coli infection can be serious, including high blood pressure, kidney damage, and heart disease.

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