June 24, 2022

FDA Updates I.M. Healthy E. coli O157:H7 – HUS Outbreak

The FDA has updated their investigation into the I.M. Healthy E. coli O157:H7 – HUS outbreak that has sickened 23 people in 9 states, most of them children. The states where the patients live and the case count by state is: Arizona, (4), California (5), Maryland (1), Missouri (1), New Jersey (1), and Oregon (6) Virginia (2), Washington (2) and Wisconsin (1).

E coli bacteria

Ten of the ill persons have been hospitalized because they are so sick. And seven of the patients have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure that can develop after this  infection.

On March 2, 2017, the states of California, Washington, and Oregon began to collect open and unopened samples of I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter from grocery stores and from the homes of patients. Six samples collected by the California Department of Public Health, one sample collected by the Oregon Health Authority, and one sample collected by the Washington Department of Health tested positive for the pathogenic bacteria and matched the outbreak strains taken from patients by pulsed field-gel electrophoresis (PFGE).

PFGE is a type of DNA sampling. It identifies bacteria by their DNA and can tell scientists if a bacterial sample taken from a patient matches a bacterial sample taken from a product.

This outbreak was first announced on March 3, 2017. At that time, information was sketchy. Investigators used the PulseNet system to identify people who were part of the outbreak. PulseNet is the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories. A database of bacterial DNA is maintained and used to identify food poisoning outbreaks. This strain of E. coli bacteria has never been seen in PulseNet before, according to the CDC.

There is zero tolerance for E. coli O157:H7 bacteria in ready to eat foods such as this nut butter. Some bacteria is tolerated in foods that are cooked before being consumed, which is a “kill” step, but not in foods that are eaten straight from the container without being heated.

Most of the patients in this outbreak are under the age of 18; many of them are under the age of 5. This product was given to children in schools and daycare centers because it is a peanut butter substitute. Unfortunately, children under the age of 5 are most likely to develop HUS.

The symptoms of an E. coli infection include severe and painful stomach and abdominal cramps, diarrhea that is bloody and/or watery, and a mild fever. These symptoms begin a few days after exposure to the bacteria.

The symptoms of HUS include little urine output, lethargy, pale skin, easy bruising, a skin rash, and bleeding from the nose or mouth. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should see a doctor immediately.

The noted and experienced law firm of Pritzker Hageman helps families of children sickened  with E. coli – HUS and other types of food poisoning get answers, compensation for their injuries, and justice. The firm’s lawyers represent people in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against food processors, restaurants, retailers, schools, and others.


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