July 13, 2020

Fresh Express Sunflower Salad Kit Linked to a New E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak

A new E. coli outbreak that has sickened people in the U.S. and Canada was just announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unlike the multistate E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce that has sickened at least 102 people, in this outbreak we have a brand name. Epidemiologic information indicates that Fresh Express Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kits are a likely source of this outbreak. Eight people in three states are sick as of December 9, 2019.

Fresh Express Sunflower Salad Kit Linked to a New E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak

The case count by state is: Minnesota (4), North Dakota (1), and Wisconsin (3). Three people have been hospitalized because they are so ill. The illness onset dates range from November 5, 2019 to November 15, 2019. The patient age range is from 21 to 91. One person has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a complication of an E. coli O157:H7 infection that causes kidney failure.

The CDC announcement states “Romaine lettuce is one of the ingredients in the salad kit, but we do not know yet if this outbreak is related to a current outbreak linked to romaine lettuce from the Salinas, California, growing region.” However, later in the outbreak notice they state, “This outbreak is caused by a different strain of E. coli O157:H7 than the current outbreak linked to romaine lettuce from the Salinas, California, growing region.”

There are 16 people in Canada who are sick with E. coli infections that are also linked to this specific Fresh Express Salad Kit. Whole genome sequencing shows that bacteria isolated from patients in the U.S. and Canada are closely related genetically, which means they most likely share a common source of infection.

Attorney Fred Pritzker

Food safety attorney Fred Pritzker said, “This is the fourth E. coli outbreak linked to salads in the last two years; hundreds have been sickened. Growers and processors must sell food that is safe to eat.” You can contact Fred for help at his Minnesota firm by calling 1-888-377-8900 or 612-338-0202.

Public health officials are investigating the source of the ingredients in this kit and are trying to discover which ingredient was contaminated. They are also interviewing ill persons to see what they ate before they got sick. Of seven people who gave officials information, all seven ate some type of leafy green, and six said they ate or “maybe ate” a Fresh Express Sunflower Crisp chopped salad kit.

The recalled  chopped salad kit implicated in this outbreak has a UPC number of 0 71279 30906 4, with a lot code beginning with the letter Z, and a best before date up to and including 07DEC19. Pictures of the product, along with the identifying information, is posted below.

Preliminary information indicates that romaine lettuce in the salad kits eaten by some of the sick people likely came from the Salinas growing region. The government is concerned that these kits may still be in some homes. If you have any of these salad kits in your home, throw them away, then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

If you have eaten this salad kit, or in fact, any type of romaine lettuce, and have been ill with the symptoms of a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infection, see your doctor. Those symptoms include a mild fever, nausea, vomiting, painful and severe stomach and abdominal cramps, and diarrhea that is bloody and/or watery. Symptoms of HUS include little urine output, easy bruising, pale skin, lethargy, and bleeding from the nose or mouth. This illness and this complication can be deadly, so anyone experience these symptoms should see a doctor immediately.

Fresh Express Sunflower Salad Kit Linked to a New E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak

 

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