Some 100 people have reported becoming ill after eating desserts from an Illinois pastry company that has since recalled products made after Nov. 1, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported Thursday.
Initial lab tests showed one of the suspect food items to be contaminated with high levels of Staphylococcus aureus (staph infection), the IDPH said in its news release.
The IDPH said it is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and other state health departments in investigating four foodborne outbreaks linked to Rolf’s Patisserie, a wholesale and retail sales bakery, in Lincolnwood, IL.
The individuals who became ill apparently ate dessert items prepared by the bakery that were served at four separate events, described only as a company party, a catered party, a restaurant and a holiday party. In a news alert issued Friday, the FDA said three of the events occurred in Illinois and resulted in 30 illnesses. Seventy illnesses have been reported from a single event in Wisconsin.
In its warning, the FDA said the desserts are available through retail, wholesale and Internet sales, and may not be labeled as coming from Rolf’s Patisserie. Resellers include grocery stores. Rolf’s Patisseries also distributes the products through a catering service and to institutions such as nursing homes. Rolf’s products include tiramisu, cakes, cobblers, decorated cookies, tarts, pastries, and pies, the FDA said.
Late Friday, in connection with the outbreak, Whole Foods Market recalled assembled ginger bread houses that were supplied to the chain by Rolf’s and sold in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.
The recalled ginger bread houses, which includes those made after Nov. 1, 2010, may have been assembled, decorated and packaged in clear plastic wrap and sold with a Whole Foods Market scale label; some scale labels also may list “Rolf’s Patisserie” as part of the description.
To date no illnesses have been reported from consumers eating ginger bread houses sold by Whole Foods Market, the retailer said in a news release.
According to the Illinois health department, food can become contaminated if a person with a staph infection has an uncovered lesion or sore that comes in contact with food or food processing equipment. Staphylococcus aureus bacteria and its toxin can contaminate foods or equipment.
In addition to recalling all its products made after Nov. 1, 2010 Rolf’s Patisserie has temporarily closed while it cooperates with IDPH on the investigation. The bakery is contacting retailers and restaurants to remove and discard its products from their shelves. Both Rolf’s and public health officials are advising people not to eat these food items and throw them out.
IDPH is working to obtain a distribution list, but is concerned that individuals or businesses may have already purchased goods for the holidays. Health authorities say it is important to ask where the dessert is from and avoid consuming desserts from Rolf’s made after Nov. 1.
Staphylococcal toxins are fast acting, sometimes causing illness in as little as 30 minutes. Symptoms usually develop within one to six hours after eating contaminated food. Patients typically experience nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. The illness is usually mild and most patients recover after one to three days. In a small minority of patients the illness may be more severe.