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18 E. coli Cases in Five States Linked to Raw Clover Sprouts

FDA, CDC meet with company owner about discontinuing sprout seed lot

The latest update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, as of June 27, 2014, a total of 18 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121 (STEC O121) have been reported from five states. CDC states that epidemiology and traceback investigations indicate that the likely source of this outbreak is contaminated raw clover sprouts produced by Evergreen Fresh Sprouts LLC of Moyie Springs, ID.

Since the previous CDC update on June 10, 2014, one additional E. coli case has been reported from Washington. The total number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Idaho (3), Michigan (1), Montana (2), Utah (1), and Washington (11).

Evergreen sprouts were reportedly served in sandwiches at Jimmy John’s and Pita Pit outlets in Washington state and Idaho and at Daanen’s Deli in Idaho. The restaurants where the sickened individuals reported eating raw clover sprouts have voluntarily suspended serving them.

Because contaminated sprouts may still be in the marketplace, CDC is advising consumers not to eat any raw clover sprouts produced by Evergreen Fresh Sprouts. Inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) visited the Idaho facility twice in May and once earlier this month and reportedly found questionable conditions there.

However, there has been no recall of raw clover sprouts from Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, and the company owner has noted that E. coli tests of his products have come back negative.

Among persons for whom information is available, dates that the illnesses began range from May 1, 2014, to May 20, 2014. Ill persons range in age from 11 years to 45 years, with a median age of 27 years. Seventy-six percent of ill persons are female. Among those persons with information, seven (44 percent) out of 16 have been hospitalized. No ill persons have developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), and no deaths have been reported.

CDC notes that illnesses that began after June 4, 2014, might not yet be reported due to average of two to three weeks it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. See the Timeline for Reporting Cases of E. coli O157 Infection for more details.

On June 26, 2014, FDA and CDC officials held a meeting with the owner of Evergreen Fresh Sprouts to advise the firm of FDA’s concerns that the seed lot used to grow clover sprouts linked to this outbreak may be contaminated, and to encourage Evergreen Fresh Sprouts to discontinue using that seed lot for producing clover sprouts for people to eat. CDC is concerned that continued distribution and sales of raw clover sprouts produced from the same seeds pose a risk to human health.

At the end of the meeting, the owner of Evergreen Fresh Sprouts informed FDA that the firm planned to discontinue using the sprout seed lot that was used to grow the sprouts linked to the outbreak. FDA officials will continue to work with Evergreen Fresh Sprouts to ensure the use of this seed lot is discontinued.

This investigation is active and ongoing, and CDC plans to update the public when more information becomes available. CDC and state and local public health partners are continuing laboratory surveillance through PulseNet to identify additional ill persons and to interview them about foods they may have eaten before becoming ill.

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