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Food Poison Journal

Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Kentucky Public Health Urges Consumers to Avoid Unpasteurized Milk – Raw Milk – After E. coli Illnesses

Consumption could lead to E. coli infection, serious illness

The Kentucky Department for Public Health is warning consumers about the dangers of consuming unpasteurized milk as well as other products that could lead to disease-producing E. coli infection, following a recent outbreak in North Central Kentucky and the hospitalization of four children.

DPH has been working with local health departments, hospital and the provider community to investigate the outbreak. Four of the five children associated with the cluster developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), a disease caused by the most severe E. coli infections which may result in life-threatening kidney failure.

“At this time, we know that all of the children consumed unpasteurized milk, which is different from the milk and dairy products you purchase at the grocery store,” said DPH Commissioner Stephanie Mayfield, M.D. “Unpasteurized milk is dangerous and has not undergone a process to kill bacteria before it is consumed, meaning it could contain disease-causing agents such as E. coli. The health of anyone who drinks unpasteurized milk can be affected if they are exposed to E. coli or other bacteria that can cause very serious illness, but the risk is even greater for children.”

The sale of raw, unpasteurized milk is illegal in the state of Kentucky. However, individuals sometimes gain access to unpasteurized milk and consume the product despite the associated health risks.

“Raw milk, no matter how carefully it is produced, may contain pathogens,” said Mayfield. “Just as we recommend that you don’t eat raw hamburger, pork or fish, we also advise that consumers don’t drink raw, unpasteurized milk.”

According to DPH, children are more likely than adults to develop complications of E. coli infection, especially if they are younger than 5. Signs of an infection include diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. HUS only develops in a small percentage of children with E. coli infection, but is a serious health concern. The condition can cause seizures, altered mental states, confusion, fatigue, dehydration, neurological complications and kidney failure. Patients with severe kidney disease may require dialysis. Three to 5 percent of HUS cases result in death, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Confirming a direct link to a given source of food or milk that causes an outbreak can be difficult, especially in situations where exposures occurred over a brief window of time. Laboratory testing has not yet definitively identified the source of the recent illnesses.

DPH is stressing the dangers of unpasteurized milk after learning all the affected children had consumed it and because it is a known source of E. coli bacteria, as well as numerous other pathogens that can lead to illness.

The pasteurization process, which uses heat to treat raw milk and kill pathogens, has been used since 1908 to assure the health and safety of the milk supply. All milk sold in Kentucky must be pasteurized, which is noted on the product label. If individuals are unsure if milk is pasteurized, they are advised to check the product labeling, ask their clerk or grocer, or to throw it out if pasteurization cannot be verified.

“Do not purchase milk unless you can verify that it has been pasteurized,” said Lewis Ramsey, manager of the DPH milk safety branch.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 1998 through 2011, 148 outbreaks due to consumption of unpasteurized milk or unpasteurized milk products were reported. These resulted in 2,384 illnesses, 284 hospitalizations and two deaths. Most of these illnesses were caused by E. coli, Campylobacter, Salmonella or Listeria.

“Unpasteurized milk is not safe for consumption,” said Mayfield. “Anyone who consumes or is planning to consume unpasteurized milk should consider the risks. We are asking you to do what is necessary to avoid exposure to E. coli or other sources of illness that could result from consuming products that have not been properly treated to eliminate bacteria.”

In addition to only drinking pasteurized milk, the public can help prevent HUS and E. coli infections by:

• Thoroughly washing produce before eating;

• Washing hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, especially after going to the bathroom, handling raw meat and eggs, or petting animals;

• Thoroughly cooking meat;

• Cleaning and sanitizing food preparation areas;

• Avoiding swallowing lake or pool water;

• Drinking only pasteurized apple cider;

• Frequently cleaning and sanitizing restrooms, including door knobs and faucets; and

• Reporting diarrheal illnesses to your physician.

Campylobacter Outbreak Confirmed in Wisconsin

Durand High School, in Pepin County, is experiencing an outbreak of a gastrointestinal illness that affected 32 football players. About 55 high school students are experiencing some symptoms, Doverspike said on Wednesday, and about 50 were absent from school Monday, causing the district to contact local and state health officials.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene have confirmed that the outbreak of gastrointestinal illness occurring in Pepin County, Wisconsin, was caused by Campylobacter. Campylobacter is a bacteria and a common cause of gastrointestinal illness in Wisconsin. Symptoms include diarrhea, which may be bloody, abdominal cramping and fever

To date, Campylobacter has been detected in specimens from 9 ill individuals. Not all of the ill individuals were tested.

The Pepin County Health Department continues to work with the DHS and the Durand School District in efforts to prevent and control infections and to investigate the source of the outbreak.

As a reminder, any person ill with diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever or other gastrointestinal symptoms should remain home from school and follow good hand washing and other hygienic practices to prevent the spread of the bacteria to other people. The DHS has recommended that students and staff may return to school when they have been symptom free for 24 hours. Students or parents of students who are ill are encouraged to consult their local health provider regarding treatment options.

The Durand School District continues to follow the cleaning guidelines recommended by the DHS to ensure all school buildings, buses, and grounds are safe for all parties involved. Students and staff are reminded that good hand washing and hygienic practices are effective in preventing the spread of illness.

Campylobacter:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Campylobacter outbreaks. The Campylobacter lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Campylobacter and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Campylobacter lawyers have litigated Campylobacter cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as raw milk and municipal water.

Three County Kentucky E. coli Outbreak Still a Mystery

Nearly a month ago an E. coli outbreak prompted Kentucky health officials to launch an investigation. As of a week ago there were five confirmed cases among children in Kentucky and a sixth case is believed to be related and is under investigation.

The confirmed cases are in Boone (1), Oldham (1) and Hardin (3) counties. The children range from 18 months to 6 years old.  All children suffered from hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

As of Thursday, the Department of Public Health said the source of the infection was still unknown.

E. coli:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of E. coli outbreaks and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The E. coli lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other foodborne illness infections and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our E. coli lawyers have litigated E. coli and HUS cases stemming from outbreaks traced to ground beef, raw milk, lettuce, spinach, sprouts, and other food products.  The law firm has brought E. coli lawsuits against such companies as Jack in the Box, Dole, ConAgra, Cargill, and Jimmy John’s.  We have proudly represented such victims as Brianne Kiner, Stephanie Smith and Linda Rivera.

Marler Clark Files 2nd Botulism Lawsuit

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Health Officer Dr. Ron Chapman warned consumers today not to eat VR Green Farms jarred food products because they may have been improperly produced, making them susceptible to contamination with Clostridium botulinum.

Ingestion of botulism toxin from improperly processed jarred and canned foods may lead to serious illness and death. CDPH is coordinating with the US Food and Drug Administration and the Ohio Department of Health in the investigation of two cases of suspected food-borne botulism infections that may be associated with consumption of the firm’s Pine Nut Basil Pesto.

VR Green Farms of San Clemente, California, is voluntarily recalling the following varieties of jarred food products: Pine Nut Basil Pesto, Pickled Farm Mix, Old World Tomato Sauce, Sundried Tomatoes in Olive Oil, Tuscan Grilling Sauce, and Pasta Sauce. These food products were sold under the VR Farms label and packaged in Mason-style glass jars with screw-on metal lids. The product labels do not include any coding or “use by” dates. Photographs can be found on Recalled Product Photos Page. The products were sold at the VR Green Farms stand in San Clemente, California and via the Internet to consumers throughout the United States.

Botulism toxin is odorless and colorless. Consumers who have any of these products or any foods made with these products should discard them immediately. Double bag the cans in plastic bags and place in a trash receptacle for non-recyclable trash. Wear gloves when handling these products or wash your hands with soap and running water.

Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The initial symptoms frequently experienced are double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, and dry or sore throat. Progressive descending paralysis, usually symmetrical, may follow. Infants with botulism appear lethargic, feed poorly, are constipated, have a weak cry and poor muscle tone.

Botulism:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Botulism outbreaks. The Botulism lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Botulism and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Botulism lawyers have litigated Botulism cases stemming from outbreaks traced to carrot juice and chili.