Six elderly women and a 4-year-old girl were killed earlier this month when a cabbage they consumed was contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. More than 100 were sickened in the Hokkaido area outbreak.

The Japan Times said it was the worst food poisoning outbreak to be experienced on island nation in a decade.

The women who died were residents of nursing homes in Sapporo and Ebetsu that served the bad cabbages. The girl died Aug 11, also in Sapporo. All who were sickened and died apparently ate a lightly pickled Chinese cabbage produced by a local company.

One of the elderly women ate the pickled product at her nursing home on Aug. 1 and died Aug. 18 from multiple organ failure after nine days in the hospital.

The young girl from Sapporo died five days after developing E. coli symptoms. Her family bought the pickled cabbage at a local supermarket.

Health officials told the newspaper they do not know how the bacteria got mixed with the pickled cabbage.

In 2002, Japan saw the deaths of nine people with E. coli infections from eating marinade chicken at a hospital and its nursing home annex at Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture.

  • Teresa Estrada

    I am microbiologist in a middle-income country, where we have not seen deathly outbreaks due to diarrheagenic E. coli or other gastrointestinal pathogens, even in cohort studies using active surveillance maybe because we are an endemic area. In our country death related diarrhea cases are associated with infants that are infected with virulent bacteria strains and do not have prompt access to health care or are undernourished or both. For us it is clear that early and constant exposure to gastrointestinal pathogens in endemic areas of middle-income countries have resulted in both less severe cases of diarrhea and death related diarrhea cases. Also we have recently observed that there is fine balance between exposure and host status, since gastrointestinal infections are an excellent indicator of poverty. After the recent and ongoing world wide economical crisis we have observed, at least in our country, that there has been a shift in pathogens prevalence and also an increase in both the severity and deaths related diarrhea, which correlates with an increase in poverty, particularly with extreme poverty.
    Therefore, after this report of O107:H7, the large O104:H4 outbreak in Germany and the ongoing outbreak of Salmonella in the US. I wander if the solution for industrialized countries to decrease large and deathly outbreaks of these pathogens will be to expose their population early to a cocktail of attenuate or less virulent bacterial gastrointestinal pathogens and boost them time-to-time. Rather than continue to try to provide their population with almost sterile food, which it is impossible and even absurd. Such approach will also help to reduce the use of antibiotics in the local and international food chain that will have an enormous impact in public health

  • jem

    Yeah, Theresa, a little routine fecal contamination of food and water will keep immune systems on their toes. We do that here and call it “organic” and we charge extra for it, double or triple usually. Yummy! Plus it is easy to do, unlike all the bother of hygiene and food safety. So, must I crap in your water to make you immune or is it enough for you to crap in your own water?