Although the government has posted its final update on the E. coli outbreak traced to SoyNut Butter Co. products — reporting 32 people across a dozen states confirmed sick —  there is an ongoing threat and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is repeating earlier warnings.

illustration I.M. Healthy soy nut butter“The recalled SoyNut Butter products have long shelf lives and may still be in people’s homes or in institutions. People who don’t know about the recalls could continue to eat the products and get sick,” according to the final update from the CDC.

“CDC recommends that consumers do not eat, and childcare centers, schools, and other institutions do not serve, any of the recalled products. Even if some of the product was eaten or served and no one got sick, throw the rest of it away. Put it in a sealed bag in the trash so that children, pets, or other animals can’t eat it.”

Epidemiological investigation, laboratory tests and distribution records provided evidence allowing state and federal officials to trace the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak to I.M. Healthy brand soy nut butter sold by the SoyNut Butter Co.

The most recent victim’s symptoms began on April 18. The first confirmed illness began on Jan. 4, according to the CDC. Of the 32 sick people, 26 were children. No deaths have been reported, but 12 of the victims required hospitalization and nine developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure.

Public health officials identified the outbreak using while genome sequencing, which involves comparing the so-called DNA fingerprints of the outbreak strain of E. coli isolated from sick people. The E. coli matched, suggesting a common source.

map CDC soy nut butter E. coli outbreakPatient interviews showed that 25 out of 25 people interviewed said they ate soy nut butter in the days before becoming ill.

“Laboratory testing identified (E. coli) O157:H7 in opened containers of I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter collected from the homes of ill people in California, Oregon, and Washington,” the CDC reported.

“Officials in California also isolated (E. coli) O157:H7 in unopened containers of I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter collected from retail locations. Whole genome sequencing showed that the (E. coli) O157:H7 in all of these containers of SoyNut Butter were closely related genetically to isolates from ill people, providing more evidence that people in this outbreak got sick from eating I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut butter.”

Investigators reported to CDC that there were two additional ill people who either developed HUS or had a diagnostic test showing they were infected with E. coli bacteria. In interviews, both of these ill people reported eating I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter in the week before becoming ill.

The CDC did not, however, include these people in the outbreak victim count because no bacterial isolates, or samples, were available for DNA fingerprinting.

FDA shuts down producer Dixie Dew Products Inc.
The Food and Drug Administration worked with the CDC on the outbreak investigation and eventually shut down the manufacturer of the soy nut butter,  noting that records and employees at Dixie Dew Products Inc. revealed food safety violations going back at least 15 years.

FDA officials have said they believe all of the potentially contaminated products made with soy paste from the Kentucky company have been recalled, but they are asking the food industry, foodservice operations, schools and consumers to double check the ingredients they have on hand.

logo Dixie Dew ProductsThe SoyNut Butter Co. recalled its I.M. Healthy brand products made with soy paste from Dixie Dew earlier this year. It expanded the recall to include Dixie Diner’s Carb Not Beanie Butter. On March 25 “Yogurt Peanut Crunch” protein bars, packaged under the 20/20 Life Styles brand, were recalled.

“All of the soy nut butter products manufactured by Dixie Dew have been recalled. Although the suspension of registration applies to the entire facility, FDA does not currently have evidence to indicate that any other products manufactured in the facility are contaminated or otherwise impacted and subject to recall,” according to the FDA suspension notice.

“If you are the brand owner of a product manufactured by Dixie Dew, the FDA encourages you to contact the Director of Compliance Branch at your FDA district office to discuss your product(s). The FDA is currently collecting and testing other products manufactured by Dixie Dew.”

The suspension order applies to the entire facility. While the order is in effect, no food product may leave the facility for sale or distribution.

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