With just six weeks to go, 2020 continues to look like a light year for the major foodborne illnesses when measured by multistate outbreaks. The three recently identified outbreaks of E. coli O157: H7 without any known food source are mysteries that remain to be solved before the year ends.

Various theories may explain the light year. The coronavirus has undoubtedly caused the diversion of public health professionals to the pandemic and caused ill people not to seek medical attention and testing in possible food poisoning cases.

The three E. coli outbreaks where the food source is unknown are described as follows:

  • As of Oct. 28, 2020, a total of 23 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157: H7 have been reported from 12 states.
  • As of Oct. 28, 2020, a total of 21 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157: H7 have been reported from eight states.
  • As of Nov. 9, 2020, a total of 12 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157: H7 have been reported from six states. 

Across the three outbreaks, reports include one death and 23 hospitalizations. Recalled Tanimura & Antle romaine lettuce in single-head packages may be the cause of the third outbreak.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta said that as of Nov. 6 there is not enough epidemiologic and traceback information available at this time to determine if ill people got sick from eating Tanimura & Antle romaine lettuce. 

While the investigation continues, CDC nonetheless urges consumers not to eat, sell, or serve Tanimura & Antle’s packaged single head romaine lettuce.

  • UPC Number: 0-27918-20314-9
  • Packed on date: 10/15/2020 or 10/16/2020
  • Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) sticker for retailers and distributors: 571280289SRS1 or 571280290SRS1

A multistate outbreak of E. coli O103 linked to clover sprouts sickened 51 people in 10 states from February through April. There were no deaths among the three hospitalizations. The sprout outbreak is the only other E. coli outbreak so far this year.

Listeria outbreaks
There have been two Listeria outbreaks in 2020. One, involving deli meats, remains active. It involves 10 people infected with the outbreak strain of 
Listeria who have been reported from Florida, Massachusetts, and New York. All 10 ill people were hospitalized. Florida has reported one death.

The other Listeria outbreak, involving recalled enoki mushrooms, was declared over on June 9. It was also deadly, killing four people with the infections of 36 people in 17 states, with the hospitalization of 31. H&C Foods, Guan’s Mushroom Co., and Sun Hong Foods recalled enoki mushrooms were associated with the recall.

Salmonella outbreaks
There are currently no active food-related Salmonella outbreaks in the United States. Earlier this year, there were three.

 On Oct. 8, a Salmonella Newport outbreak linked to onions was declared over after 1,127 confirmed patients in 48 states were confirmed infected. There were no deaths among the 167 hospitalizations 

On Oct. 16, a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak involving peaches was declared over after 101 illnesses in 17 states with 28 hospitalizations and no deaths.

Finally, on Nov. 4, a Salmonella outbreak involving dried wood mushrooms sold in restaurants was declared over after 55 cases in 12 states. Six were hospitalized with no deaths.

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