2017 was somewhat of a quiet year for significant, yet still deadly, outbreaks.
Listeria – Cheese
The first to be noticed was announced by the CDC in March of 2017. By then the CDC had been collaborating with public health and regulatory officials in several states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis). According to the CDC, Listeria specimens were collected from ill people from September 1, 2016 to March 13, 2017. Ill people ranged in age from less than one year to 89 years, with a median age of 52 years. Five of eight ill people were female. All eight (100%) ill people were hospitalized, including two people from Connecticut and Vermont who died. One of the illnesses was reported in a newborn. Victims came from Connecticut (1), Florida (1), New York (5) and Vermont (1)
Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicated that soft raw milk cheese made by Vulto Creamery of Walton, New York, was the likely source of this outbreak. State and local health departments interviewed ill people or their family members about the foods they ate or other exposures in the month before their illness started. Based on those interviews, eight (100%) of eight people ate a soft cheese. The ill resident of Florida reported traveling to New York state and eating soft cheese there before becoming ill. Available information indicated that cheese made by Vulto Creamery was for sale at stores where at least seven of the ill people bought cheese before getting sick.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health collected leftover cheeses from the home of the deceased person in Connecticut. The outbreak strain of Listeria was identified in a leftover cheese that the family identified as Ouleout cheese from Vulto Creamery. The New York Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services collected three intact wheels of Ouleout cheese from Vulto Creamery. The outbreak strain of Listeria was identified in samples taken from the three wheels of cheese. On March 7, 2017, Vulto Creamery recalled all lots of Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses. On March 10, the company expanded the recall to include four other cheeses: Andes, Blue Blais, Hamden, and Walton Umber. The raw milk cheeses were distributed nationwide, with most sold in stores in the northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states; California; Chicago; Portland, Oregon; and Washington, D.C.
E. coli – Soy Nut Butter
The CDC reported on May 2017, that although the outbreak investigation is over, illnesses may continue for some time. The recalled SoyNut Butter products have long shelf lives and may still be in people’s homes or in institutions. People who don’t know about the recalls could continue to eat the products and get sick.
Thirty-two people infected with the outbreak strains of STEC O157:H7 were reported from 12 states. Arizona 4, California 5, Florida 2, Illinois 1, Massachusetts 1, Maryland 1, Missouri 1, New Jersey 1, Oregon 11, Virginia 2, Washington 2 and Wisconsin 1. Twelve people were hospitalized. Nine people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. Twenty-six (81%) of the 32-ill people in this outbreak were younger than 18 years. Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicated that I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter was the likely source of this outbreak. Several soy nut products were recalled.
On March 28, 2017, the FDA issued a Suspension of Food Facility Registration Order to Dixie Dew of Erlanger, Ky., after an inspection revealed insanitary conditions at the firm that could affect the safety of finished products. Dixie Dew is the contract manufacturer for SoyNut Butter Company’s soy nut butter products. The close out of the outbreak investigation does not affect the suspension order.
Botulism – Cheese Sauce
Also in May, the California Department of Health reported an outbreak of foodborne botulism originating from the Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station in Walnut Grove left 10 people hospitalized, the state Department of Health reported Friday, and an Antioch resident died as a result.
The botulism outbreak was reported to have come from nacho cheese sauce sold at the Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station in Walnut Grove. Inspection reports for the Valley Oaks Food and Fuel station show that on May 6 and 7, officers impounded bags of Montecito nacho cheese tortilla chips and closed the facility. On May 8, health officers from the state Department of Health impounded four bags of Gehls cheese sauce and reopened the store to sell prepackaged food items only.
Let’s hope for even fewer outbreak in the coming New Year.
A bit(e) more history:
Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. Coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat, By Jeff Benedict
2017 – This Food Poisoning Expert Revealed The 6 Things He Refuses To EatHealthyWay, R.J.Wilson, May 18
2016 – How one Attorney Is Trying to Make Food Safer Civil Beat News, Rui Kaneya, August 22
2016 – This genius lawyer is our best hope against deadly food poisoning Mother Jones, Kiera Butler, May 20
2016 – 7 Things We Learned About Food Safety Oversight From A Foodborne IllnessExpert Consumerist, Ashlee Kieler, February 2
2015 – Profile in Obsession: Bill Marler, Naomi Tomky, March 24
2015 – The New Yorker – A Bug in the System The New Yorker, Wil S. Hylton, February 2
2014 – Q&A: Food Safety Lawyer Bill Marler on What Not to Eat The National Law Journal, Jenna Greene, November 3
2012 – Bill Marler, Attorney, Blogger, and Food Safety Advocate, Talks Turkey (Or Spinach, Rather) Miami New Times, Ily Goyanes, November 2
2012 – Bill Marler Interview, Part Two: His Most Difficult Cases and Lobbying Congress Miami New Times, Ily Goyanes, November 14
2012 – Profiles in Public Health Law: Interview with William “Bill” Marler CDC Public Health Law News, July
2012 – Food Safety Lawyer Bill Marler On Sprouts, Raw Milk, and Why “Local” Isn’t Always Safer Blisstree.com, Hanna Brooks Olsen, March 5
2011 – Listeria outbreak draws Seattle lawyer to battle Associated Press, Shannon Dininny, October 9
2011 – Food-Borne Illness Attorney: Top Foods to Avoid ABC News, Neal Karlinsky, September 29
2011 – How to Keep Food Free of Salmonella: Lawsuits The Atlantic, Barry Estabrook, August 31
2011 – More Stomach-Churning Facts about the E. Coli Outbreak New York Times, Mark Bittman, June 8
2011 – Bill Marler: A Personal Injury Attorney and More The Xemplar, Nicole Black, June 1
2011 – Good Food Hero: Bill Marler, Food Safety Attorney Good Food World, Gail Nickel-Kailing, May 23
2011- Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. coli Outbreak that Changed the Way Americans Eat Inspire Books, Jeff Benedict, May 15
2011 – New Book Chronicles Islander Marler’s Work Bainbridge Island Review, Connie Mears, May 13
2010 – Food Safety Lawyer Puts His Money Where Your Mouth Is AOL News, Andrew Schneider, September 29
2009 – Bill Marler: Taking on E.coli, BigAg, Raw Milk, Conspiracy Theorists, and the USDA Simple, Good, and Tasty, Shai Danielson, December 16
2009 – Food Safety Lawyer’s Wish: Put Me Out of Business Seattle Times, Maureen O’Hagan, November 23
2009 – WSU Discourse on Food Safety, Courtesy Seattle Lawyer Kitsap Sun, Tristan Baurick, August 29
2009 – Calling for Real Food Safety Reform: Bill Marler for FSIS Civil Eats, David Murphy, June 24
2009 – When Food Sickens, He Heads for Courthouse Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Matt McKinney, June 24
2009 – Bill Marler, The Food-Safety Litigator Culinate, Miriam Wolf, April
2009 – Food Fight:Bill Marler’s Beef (PDF) Washington Law & Politics, David Volk, May
2009 – Candidate for Top FSIS Job talks E. coli Testing, Irradiation, Education The Meating Place, Ann Bagel Storck, February 6
2009 – Five Minutes with Bill Marler, Well Known Lawyer, Food Safety Activist CattleNetwork, Chuck Jolley, February 5
2009 – Outspoken Food Safety Attorney Wants In The Washington Post, Ed O’Keefe, January 27
2008 – E. Coli Lawyer Is Busier Than Ever Associated Press, February 4
2007 – Legally Speaking: The Food Poisoning Lawyer The Southeast Texas Record, John G. Browning, November 20
2007 – The Nation’s Leading Food-borne Illness Attorney Tells All Washington State Magazine, Hannelore Sudermann, August
2007 – Food Fight Portland Oregonian, Alex Pulaski, March
2006 – How a Tiny Law Firm Made Hay Out of Tainted Spinach The Wall Street Journal, Heather Won Tesoriero and Peter Lattman, September 27
2001 – THE INSIDE STORY: How 11 Schoolkids Got $4.75 Million in E. coli Lawsuit MeatingPlace.com, Bryan Salvage, March 7
2001 – Hammer Time: Preparation Pays When Disputes Escalate to Lawsuits Meat & Poultry Magazine, David Hendee
2001 – For Seattle Attorney, A Bacterium Brings Riches—and Enemies The Wall Street Journal, Rachel Zimmerman
2001 – The Bug That Ate The Burger Los Angeles Times, Emily Green, June
1999 – Courting Publicity, Attorney Makes Safe Food His Business Seattle Post, Maggie Leung, September 7