E. coli is a major source of food poisoning sickening thousands of Americans each year. Symptoms of an E.coli infection, which include abdominal cramping and bloody diarrhea, usually set in about three days after exposure and last about a week. Complications include hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) which can lead to kidney failure.
Leafy greens, ground beef and petting zoos are common sources of E.coli outbreaks, but they’re not the only ones, as a look back at the outbreaks in 2015 shows.
Although most food poisoning outbreaks occur restaurants, the settings for these outbreaks varied. Of the 15 high-profile E. coli outbreaks of 2015, three were associated with restaurants: Chipotle, Twisted Fork and Worthy Burger. One, Los Chilangos, was associated with food from a food truck.
Petting zoos and animal exhibits at fairs are also common sources of E. coli outbreaks. Children are most often the victims of these outbreaks as was the case for three 2015 outbreaks linked to fairs and festivals: Red River Valley, Milk Makers Fest and the Oxford County Fair in Maine.
Unpasteurized juices and dairy products represent an increased risk of food poisoning. Two of the outbreaks in 2015 were associated with these types of beverages: unpasteurized apple cider from High Hill Ranch and unpasteurized milk from Natural Farm Fresh Dairy.
The remaining outbreaks were associated with daycare centers, a correctional facility, unknown sources and Rotisserie Chicken Salad from Costco.
Chipotle, Multistate – An E. coli outbreak linked to food served at Chipotle restaurants in nine states has sickened at least 52 people, hospitalizing 20 of them. Although produce was initially suspected, a food source has not been identified.
Twisted Fork, Nevada- An E. coli outbreak at the Twisted Fork in Reno, Nevada was linked to a chocolate mousse dessert prepared by another Reno Provisions. The source of contamination was a blender used for meat that was not cleaned properly before it was used again to make the mousse. Twenty two people were sickened.
Worthy Burger, Vermont- Eleven people who ate at Worthy Burger in South Royalton in Vermont contracted E. coli infections. The case patients were from three states, Vermont, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.
Los Chilangos, Washington – Los Chilangos food trucks had expired food service permits at the time they were linked to an E. coli outbreak that sickened 10 people who attended the Issaquah and Sammamish farmers markets in Washington state. Three people were hospitalized including a 4-year-old girl with HUS kidney failure.
Fairs and Festivals
Milk Makers Fest, Whatcom County, Washington – Most of the 25 people sickened after attending the Milk Makers Fest in Whatcom County Washington were first graders. Ten people were hospitalized, four of them with HUS. Health officials linked the illnesses to environmenatl contamination from the Dairy Barn at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden, Washington.
Oxford County Fair, Maine – A September E. coli outbreak at the Oxford County Fair sickened two small boys, killing one of them. Both toddlers developed E. coli O111 infections after attending the fair. Their parents believe the petting zoo was the source of contamination, but health officials were unable to confirm a source.
Red River Valley Fair, West Fargo, North Dakota – All five people who developed E. coli infections after attending the fair were children. Four of them were hospitalized. A source of the outbreak was not confirmed by health officials.
High Hill Ranch, California – State health officials found E. coli O111 in a sample of apple juice from High Hill Ranch establishing a link to and outbreak that sickened 13 people with the same strain. At least one person was hospitalized.
Natural Farm Fresh Dairy, Idaho – A raw milk outbreak sickened 12 people with Campylobacter and E.coli infections. Four people who drank raw milk from Natural Farm Fresh Dairy in Kuna developed E. coli O157: H7 infections and four people developed Campylobacter infections. Four others had symptoms consistent with food poisoning. Two people were hospitalized.
Fulton County, Indiana – Indiana health officials said an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that included three confirmed cases, three suspected cases and one fatality was associated with a daycare facility they did not name. The child who died did not attend the daycare. It is not clear if she contracted the infection through secondary contact or if the source contamination was more widespread than health officials initially thought. All of the children were from the northern Indiana counties Fulton, Wabash, and Marshall.
Learning Vine Daycare, South Carolina – Learning Vine was linked to an outbreak that sickened a total of 14 children. One child died. Attorneys filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of the family who lost their 2-year-old boy.
Prepared Grocery Items – An E. coli outbreak linked to Costco Rotisserie Chicken Salad sickened 19 people in seven states. Five people were hospitalized; two of them developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
Sacramento County, California – Seven Sacramento County children were sickened with E. coli in June. A source of the illnesses was not identified. Three who were hospitalized were treated and released.
Lodi, California – An E. coli outbreak sickened at least six children in Lodi, California who attended the same elementary school. The principal said health officials ruled out the school as the source of the outbreak. One child was hospitalized.
Lovelock Correctional Facility, Nevada – An E. coli outbreak sickened three inmates at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nevada. A source of the outbreak was not identified.