The Oregon State Department of Health has identified 13 cases of illness in the strawberry E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. Six have required hospitalization, several suffering from HUS, and one woman has died. The contamination is thought to have occurred by animals in the growing fields, but laboratory tests are pending from at 100 samples that were collected at the farm in recent days.
Lynn Terry at The Oregonian reported today that certain sales of berries potentially linked to illness may have been illegal.
Under Oregon law, farmers marketing directly to consumers are only allowed to sell produce grown on their own property. The Department of Agriculture requires companies involved in resale to be licensed. That means inspectors visit the facility, checking on food safety measures, such as storage and hand washing facilities.
This is believed to be the first E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to strawberries. Today, we challenged the Oregon small farm industry to ensure that best practices are being used in the fields and manufacturing facilities, but also offered to help out a little giving $5,000 to Portland based Food Alliance today. About the donation, Bill Marler said:
“Small farms may not have the same degree of resources or access to knowledge about food safety practices as larger food producers, but a lack of these things is no excuse when it comes to a deadly E. coli outbreak. This unfortunate outbreak provides a perfect opportunity for the strawberry industry to immediately reflect on its practices, and find ways to prevent the contamination problems that other segments of the produce industry have seen.”