Oregon health officials are the first to confirm E. coli contamination in I.M. Healthy brand soy nut butter after testing product collected from the home of two children who are among victims of a nationwide outbreak.
“People need to know that if they have this product in their pantries, they should immediately return it to the store where they bought it, or throw it out,” said Paul Cieslak, medical director for the Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section at the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division.
The state health authority’s warning Wednesday is similar to those issued by other states, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Shelf space tagged for I.M. Healthy brand soy nut butter was empty at a Target store in the Kansas City area after the SoyNut Butter Co. recalled products earlier this week because of the E. coli outbreak. As of Wednesday evening the products were still available for purchase online.
The SoyNut Butter Co. of Glenville, IL, has recalled all of its I.M. Healthy brand peanut butter substitutes and granola products. However, as of Wednesday evening, the products were still available for purchase on the company’s website. Company officials have not responded to requests for comment since denying all knowledge of any potential problems a week ago.
“If (any people) ate the product and are experiencing symptoms of E. coli infection, they should see their health care provider right away,” according to the Oregon warning.
There is concern that other products sold under other brands could also be contaminated because the soy nut butter used in the I.M. Healthy products was made by an as yet unnamed contract manufacturer. In a statement posted Tuesday, the SoyNut Butter Co. owners revealed that they used a contracted supplier, but did not name the company.
“… we chose our contract manufacturer because of their integrity and knowledge of food safety and quality. Unfortunately, we feel that is better to be cautious regarding public safety and urge our customers to heed the expanded recall,” according to the SoyNut Butter statement.
An attorney representing the company said the soy nut butter implicated in the ongoing outbreak was from a manufacturer in Kentucky, according to Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who is representing the parents of California child sickened in the outbreak.
Marler, who represented victims of a 2008-09 Salmonella outbreak traced to peanut butter from Peanut Corporation of America, said he’s worried that other soy nut butter products containing potentially contaminated soy butter from the Kentucky manufacturer could still be in the stream of commerce.
Although PCA was only making 2 percent of the peanut butter/paste in the country when the Salmonella outbreak occurred, thousands of people across the country were sickened because of the wide variety of products that contained it. Nine people died.
Current outbreak details
To read the CDC’s most recent update on the E. coli outbreak linked to I.M. Healthy brand soy nut butter products from SoyNut Butter Co., please click on the image.
As of the most recent update from the CDC, there are 16 people in nine states confirmed with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7. Fourteen of them are children.
Half of the victims have had symptoms so serious they required hospitalization. Five victims, or 33 percent, have developed the potentially deadly hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) that is generally seen in only 5 percent to 10 percent of E. coli patients.
The two victims confirmed so far in Oregon are siblings, both younger than 18. They were not hospitalized, did not develop HUS and are recovering well, according to state health officials.
In addition to the two Oregon cases, there have been four in Arizona; four in California; and one each in Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. However, the CDC reported that people who may have become sick after Feb. 13 are likely not included in the statistics yet because of the two- to three-week lag time between lab work and reported cases being entered into the database.
Advice for consumers nationwide
Anyone who has eaten I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter products or anything containing the products and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should immediately seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the bacteria.
“The symptoms of STEC infections vary but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea — often bloody — and vomiting,” according to the CDC.
“Most people get better within 5 to 7 days, but some infections are severe or even life-threatening. Very young children and the elderly are more likely to develop severe illness and HUS than others, but even healthy older children and young adults can become seriously ill.”
The CDC advises people to watch for diarrhea that lasts for more than three days, or is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool, or so much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down and you pass very little urine.
Editor’s note: Attorney Bill Marler is publisher of Food Safety News.
For additional details on the outbreak and recall, please see:
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