Michigan health officials are investigating whether raw, unpasteurized apple cider is to blame for “multiple” E. coli illnesses detected in residents of Antrim County.  The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is working with the Michigan Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development and Community Health are working collaborativley on the investigation.  The apple cider was, in addition to being unpasteurized, also unlabeled, and was produced by an unlicensed facility.

There is no word, yet, on what strain of E. coli has caused these illnesses.  What we know is that they occurred as a result of infection by a shiga toxin-producing strain of E. coli.  The illnesses occurred over the course of the past two weeks.   Samples of the cider have also been collected for testing.

According to Joshua Meyerson, M.D., Medical Director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, apple cider – whether pasteurized or unpasteurized – should be obtained only from licensed facilities or vendors.  “Shiga toxin-producing E.coli comes from eating foods contaminated with traces of human or animal feces,” Meyerson explained. “This is sometimes associated with under-cooked meat, produce and unpasteurized cider or dairy goods produced without the necessary safeguards to prevent contamination.”

Meyerson adds that anyone experiencing abdominal pain and worsening or bloody diarrhea, especially those who may have recently consumed unpasteurized apple cider from an unknown or unlicensed source, should contact a physician. “Symptoms usually appear within three to 10 days following exposure,” he said. “Young children and the elderly face greater risk of severe complications.”