The beautiful state of New Mexico is presently embroiled in the rapidly growing multi-state outbreak of listeria linked to contaminated cantaloupes, with at least 10 illnesses including 4 deaths. All 10 individuals were hospitalized. The victims’ ages range from 43 to 96 years, and include 6 women and 4 men. They are from seven different New Mexico counties. But this is not the first time that residents of New Mexico have been injured by contaminated food. Some notable past outbreaks include:
- Dole Brand Natural Selection Foods bagged spinach E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. On September 13, 2006, public health officials in Wisconsin, Oregon, and New Mexico noted E. coli O157:H7 infections with matching pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns, a genetic fingerprinting technique. These illnesses were associated with eating fresh, bagged spinach produced by Dole Brand Natural Selection Foods. By September 26, infections involving the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 had been reported from 26 states with one case in Canada. The spinach had been bagged and distributed under many brand names. A voluntary recall was issued by the company on September 15. E. coli O157: H7 was isolated from 13 packages of spinach supplied by patients in ten states. Eleven of the packages had lot codes consistent with a single manufacturing facility on a particular day. Two other packages did not have lot codes available but had the same brand name as the other packages. The PFGE pattern of all tested packages matched the PFGE pattern of the outbreak strain. The spinach had been grown in three California counties (Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Clara). E. coli O157:H7 was found in environmental samples collected near each of the four fields that provided spinach for the product as designated by the lot code. However, E. coli O157:H7 isolates associated with only one of the four fields (located on the Paicines Ranch in San Benito County) had a PFGE pattern indistinguishable from the outbreak strain. The PFGE pattern was identified in river water, cattle feces, and wild pig feces on the Paicines Ranch, the closest of which was just under one mile from the spinach field.
- JBS Swift Ground Beef E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. A multi-state outbreak (Cluster ID # 0906WIEXH-1)was discovered involving ground beef produced by the JBS Swift Company. Most ill persons had consumed ground beef; many reported that it was undercooked. Samples from unopened packages of ground beef recovered from a patient’s home were tested by the Michigan Public Health Laboratory. These yielded E. coli O157:H7 that matched the “DNA fingerprint” of the outbreak strain. Twenty three persons had been infected with the strain that matched by standard DNA testing. The beef was sold in the United States and Mexico. Mexican health officials banned further importation of the meat.