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Deer Confirmed as Source of Strawberry Outbreak

Lab tests confirmed that deer feces found in strawberry fields in Oregon were the source of E. coli 0157:H7 infections that killed one person and sickened at least 14 others, Oregon Public Health Division officials confirmed Wednesday.

“There were six samples that positively matched the E. coli that was found in the people who were infected,” said Dr. Katrina Hedberg, Oregon Public Health state epidemiologist.

Wild animals and livestock (pastured livestock, as well as those in concentrated animal feeding operations) can carry harmful E. coli and shed it in their excrement. And deer have been identified as the source of previous illness clusters. In 1995, the outbreak strain of E. coli associated with venison jerky was found in deer feces. Deer droppings were also the likely source of the E. coli O157:H7 found in unpasteurized Odwalla apple juice in 1996.

Berries from the affected fields in Newberg, Oregon were grown by Jaquith Strawberry Farm. Jaquith sold some of its strawberries to other vendors, who then resold them at roadside stands, farms stands and farmers’ markets. Reselling another farm’s produce is not permitted in Oregon, “but more common than we thought,” investigators said.

Jaquith recalled its berries and is cooperating fully with the outbreak investigation, Oregon public health officials said. Recalls of 4,800 flats of Jaquith berries were also announced by Ron Spada Farms of Portland. Growers Outlet also recalled Jaquith berries.

Oregon’s local strawberry season ended in late July, so fresh berries are no longer on the market, but health officials remain concerned about berries that were frozen or made into uncooked jam. Those berries should be thrown out, Hedberg said.

© Food Safety News
  • Doc Mudd

    Wow. From your link, looks like 8 different local farmers markets were infiltrated by resellers in just this one instance.
    I guess we really shouldn’t be surprised.
    http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/know-your-farmer-know-your-food—except-when-it-is-not-the-food-they-grew/
    http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/03/loosening-the-rules-for-small-local-food-sellers/

  • CSB Aujuard, REHS, CCEO

    ……Reselling another farms produce is not permitted in Oregon. Would making food at one’s private home in Oregon and entering California to sell it, qualify too as being “Not Permitted”? And should we be “surprised” if we find individuals who conduct this sort of activity as well? Because this is exactly what is occuring, and the local authorities can not stop it. And when we do, “we” get blamed for not being coopperative with the public…..all because of the economy, and that these “people” are in need of money, and more so, because they’re “pillars-of-the-community” and should there fore be allowed to.

  • Bryan

    So deer that have been feeding in a field of strawberries that we know to be contaminated with Ecoli have Ecoli in their droppings. That makes sense. Which came first though? From what’s contained in this article, I dont see a causal relationship.

  • mrothschild

    Bryan: Healthy cattle, sheep, pigs, deer and poultry can carry toxic strains of E. coli in their lower intestines. Animals lack the cell receptors these bacteria use like docking stations to attach to and attack the intestine, so the pathogens don’t make the animals sick. Human cells, however, do have these receptors so toxin-producing E. coli can cause severe diarrhea, kidney damage and sometimes death in humans. Animals shed the E. coli in their feces. Produce, fruit, nuts, berries that come in contact with feces on the ground can then become contaminated with the bacteria and then can cross-contaminate other produce, fruit, nuts, berries when they’re tumbled together.

  • Mary Rothschild

    Bryan: Healthy cattle, sheep, pigs, deer and poultry can carry toxic strains of E. coli in their lower intestines. Animals lack the cell receptors these bacteria use like docking stations to attach to and attack the intestine, so the pathogens don’t make the animals sick. Human cells, however, do have these receptors so toxin-producing E. coli can cause severe diarrhea, kidney damage and sometimes death in humans. Animals shed the E. coli in their feces. Produce, fruit, nuts, berries that come in contact with feces on the ground can then become contaminated with the bacteria and then can cross-contaminate other produce, fruit, nuts, berries when they’re tumbled together.