The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) are working with the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and public health agencies in other states on an ongoing investigation of an outbreak of E. coli O157 infections associated with eating organic baby spinach.
According to investigators from MDH, the Minnesota cases became ill from Oct. 17 to Oct. 23. Neither ill person was hospitalized. The ill Minnesotans were in their mid-20’s. One is a metro area resident, and the other is from outstate Minnesota. One case reported eating Josie’s Organics organic baby spinach purchased from HyVee, and the other case reported Fresh Thyme organic baby spinach purchased from Fresh Thyme. Both brands are produced by Braga Fresh. The MDA collected leftover Josie’s Organics organic baby spinach with a best by date of 10/23/2021 from a Minnesota case’s home, and this product tested positive for E. coli O157.
Additional outbreak cases are being investigated in other states. At this time, Minnesota health officials are warning consumers to not eat Josie’s Organics organic baby spinach and Fresh Thyme organic baby spinach with a best by date on or around 10/23/2021, and if they have it in their refrigerators, to throw it out. The investigation by state and federal partners to determine the scope of the contamination is ongoing; this investigation could result in expansion of the warning to include additional production dates.
As of November 15, 2021, a total of 10 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from seven states – Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio
Illnesses started on dates ranging from October 15, 2021, to October 27, 2021.
Sick people range in age from 2 to 71 years, with a median age of 26, and 70% are female. Of eight people with information available, two have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely much higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses. This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for E. coli. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak.
State and local public health officials are interviewing people about the foods they ate in the week before they got sick. Of the six people interviewed, five (83%) reported eating spinach in the week before they got sick.
Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. CDC PulseNet manages a national database of DNA fingerprints of bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. DNA fingerprinting is performed on bacteria using a method called whole genome sequencing (WGS). WGS showed that bacteria from sick people’s samples are closely related genetically. This suggests that people in this outbreak got sick from the same food.
Minnesota officials found E. coli O157:H7 in a package of leftover Josie’s Organics baby spinach collected from a sick person’s home. Five people in this outbreak reported eating spinach in the week before they got sick and 1 reported Josie’s Organics brand.
Investigators are working to determine if additional products may be contaminated.
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 $800 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.
If you or a family member became ill with an E. coli infection or HUS after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark E. coli attorneys for a free case evaluation.