Two separate E. coli outbreaks were announced today linked to a Costco cheese product and Baugher’s unpasteurized apple cider from Maryland:

Costco Dutch Style Gouda Cheese E. coli Outbreak:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention join Costco Wholesale Corporation (Costco), in warning consumers not to consume Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda cheese (Costco item 40654), as this cheese may be associated with an outbreak of E.coli O157:H7 infections. The cheese was available for sale, and free samples were offered for in-store tasting at Costco in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.

CDC reports that As of Thursday, November 4, 2010, 25 persons infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from five states since mid-October. The number of ill persons identified in each state with this strain is as follows: AZ (11), CA (1), CO (8), NM (3) and NV (2). There have been 9 reported hospitalizations, 1 possible case of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and no deaths.

Baugher’s unpasteurized apple cider:

Maryland public health officials said a Westminster company has voluntarily recalled call of its apple cider because of its potential to contain the E. coli bacteria. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said Thursday that it was investigating a cluster of seven E. coli infections; three people have been hospitalized.  There are no reports yet of any of the outbreak victims developing hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS. 

Previous unpasteurized juice outbreaks:

I.  Odwalla E. coli Outbreak

This is certainly not the first time that an unpasteurized fruit juice has been implicated in an E. coli or Salmonella outbreak.  In the fall of 2006, a cluster of E.coli O157:H7 infections in the US and British Columbia was linked to the consumption of a broadly distributed, commercially sold, highly regarded, unpasteurized apple juice. The juice was produced at a state-of-the-art facility. Once the outbreak was detected and additional case finding occurred, the product was recalled, and a traceback investigation ensued. E.coli O157:H7 was detected in apple juice samples and matched the strain of E.coli O157:H7 that had been isolated from ill persons. Three lots of apples could have been the source of the contamination. Deer had grazed in the orchards where two of the lots had originated. Fecal samples from the deer were found to contain E.coli O157:H7, however this strain of E.coli O157:H7 was different from the strain that was implicated in the outbreak. The third lot consisted of decaying apples that had been waxed. The outbreak resulted in changes in the fresh juice industry, and in many states, resulted in special labeling requirements for fresh juices.

II.  Sun Orchard Salmonella Outbreak:

Also, in June 1999, Public Health-Seattle and King County (PHSKC) and the Washington state health department and the Oregon Health Division independently investigated clusters of diarrheal illness attributed to Salmonella serotype Muenchen infections in each state. Both clusters were associated with a commercially distributed unpasteurized orange juice traced to a single processor, which distributes widely in the United States. As of July 13, 207 confirmed cases associated with this outbreak have been reported by 15 states and two Canadian provinces; an additional 91 cases of S. Muenchen infection reported since June 1 are under investigation. This report summarizes the two state-based investigations and presents preliminary information about the outbreak in the other states and Canada.

On June 25, on the basis of the epidemiologic information from the investigations in Washington and Oregon and discussions with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Sun Orchard voluntarily issued a recall. Unpasteurized orange juice produced by Sun Orchard was distributed to Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia under the brand names Aloha, Earls and Joeys Tomato’s, Markon, Sysco, Trader Joe’s, Voila, and Zupan. Other states and provinces received these products through secondary distribution. The juice was distributed to hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets, and was served in individual glasses as "fresh-squeezed" juice in hotels and restaurants. In addition, a frozen form of the unpasteurized juice was sold under the brand name Vareva for use in restaurants and institutions.

On June 28, samples from a previously unopened container of unpasteurized Sun Orchard orange juice analyzed at an FDA laboratory and the Washington State Public Health Laboratory yielded S. Muenchen; samples from the smoothie blender and juice dispenser at an outlet of restaurant A analyzed by the Washington State Public Health Laboratory yielded Salmonella serogroup C2. Isolates from both sources had a PFGE pattern that was indistinguishable from strains isolated from patients. Subsequently, orange juice collected from the Sun Orchard factory, cultured in an FDA laboratory and serotyped by the California State Public Health Laboratory, yielded S. serotype Javiana, S. serotype Gaminara, S. serotype Hidalgo, and S. serotype Alamo in addition to S. Muenchen.

III.  California Day Fresh Foods Orange Juice

A multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Enteriditis was linked to the consumption of unpasteurized orange juices. The juices were made by California Day-Fresh. The juice was transported from an originating plant to another plant where it was mixed and bottled. The receiving plant yielded no obvious food safety violations, however the originating plant revealed several potential violations. The juice was primarily purchased through Costco, but also was available through Von’s and Trader Joe’s outlets.