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Illinois Salad Producer Has Third Food Poisoning Incident in Last Three YearsThe number of people who have been affected by the cyclospora salad outbreak has increased since we last reported it in June. As of July 24, 641 people in 11 states are confirmed to have contracted cyclospora, as well as more than 100 other people in Canada. Illinois has been the state with the most people infected, with 241 reported cases. Dozens of people have been hospitalized but no one has died. The cyclospora outbreak was linked to garden salads produced by Fresh Express in its Streamwood, Illinois, facility. Fresh Express has recalled the packaged salads, which were sold under various names at Jewel-Osco, ALDI, Walmart, Giant Eagle, Hy-Vee, and ShopRite. The fact that this is the third food poisoning outbreak in three years connected to Fresh Express and its Streamwood facility gives an additional reason for concern.

2018 Cyclospora Outbreak

From May to July in 2018, 511 people from 15 states, including Illinois, contracted cyclospora after eating salads sold at McDonald’s restaurants in the Midwest. Fresh Express was the supplier for McDonald’s salads at the time, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that a package of romaine lettuce and carrots from the Streamwood facility had tested positive for cyclospora. McDonald’s stopped selling salads that it purchased from Fresh Express and switched to a different supplier.

2019 E. Coli Outbreak

In November 2019, 10 people from five states, including one from Illinois, contracted a strain of E. coli that the FDA believed originated from Fresh Express Sunflower Crisp chopped salad kits. The strain of E. coli was different from the strain in a concurrent incident involving contaminated romaine lettuce grown in California. The FDA was unable to determine which ingredient in the salad kit was contaminated and announced that the outbreak was over on Jan. 15.

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Nuts Have History of Food Poisoning OutbreaksWhen people mention the health risks associated with eating nuts, allergies may be what first comes to mind. Many parents are aware of how exposure to nut products can endanger children with nut allergies. Food manufacturers and sellers can be liable if a person has an allergic reaction because the product did not disclose that it contained nuts. However, there have also been several instances in the U.S. of food poisoning that is related to nuts being sold in stores. Though they are rarer than allergic reactions, the outbreaks can be harmful to those who consume the contaminated nuts.

Illinois Company Recalls Macadamia Nuts

NOW Health Group Inc. has voluntarily recalled packages of macadamia nuts because of potential salmonella contamination. The Illinois-based company discovered the contamination when testing one of its macadamia nut lots, some of which had already been packaged and sent to retailers. The recall applies to packages that are labeled “NOW Real Food Raw Macadamia Nuts” with a best by date of 01/2021. Symptoms from a salmonella infection can take six hours to six days to appear and usually include diarrhea, cramping, and fever. Severe cases may require hospitalization or antibiotics.

Though this case applies to macadamia nuts, past food poisoning cases have involved a variety of shelled and unshelled nuts:

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Jimmy John’s Receives FDA Warning About Contaminated ProduceThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to the sandwich restaurant chain Jimmy John’s, claiming that the franchise has repeatedly purchased adulterated produce. The FDA identified sprouts and cucumbers as the adulterated products and cited five outbreaks of E. coli or salmonella linked to the restaurants since 2012. Though Jimmy John’s removed sprouts from its stores as a precautionary measure, the FDA said the franchise needs to take corrective action to prevent such outbreaks from continuing to occur. E. coli and salmonella infections can be potentially fatal to young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

What Is Adulterated Produce?

Adulterating food normally refers to adding or replacing ingredients in a food product that may cause harm to those who consume it. For instance, a food manufacturer may replace a natural ingredient in its product with an artificial one, which causes people to become sick upon eating it. In the Jimmy John’s case, the E. coli and salmonella are not artificial ingredients but poisonous substances that have contaminated the produce. Though the producer did not intentionally add the contaminants, it still meets the legal definition of adulterated because there is enough of the contaminant to cause harm.

History of Outbreaks

The FDA accused Jimmy John’s of lacking the control mechanisms to prevent it from continuing to purchase contaminated produce. As previously referenced, the FDA cited five recent food poisoning cases:

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Lettuce E. Coli Outbreak Hits U.S. for Third YearThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 67 people have become sick since Sept. 24 due to E. coli found in romaine lettuce. Consumers are warned to not eat romaine that was grown in Salinas, California, and to avoid purchasing romaine if it does not say where it was grown. According to the CDC, 39 people have been hospitalized, with six of those patients developing kidney failure. Illnesses have been reported across 19 states, including one person in Illinois who was hospitalized. The CDC is still investigating the source of the contamination and whether products from other areas are contaminated.

History of Outbreaks

This is the third consecutive year that the same strain of E. coli has been linked to leafy greens sold in the U.S.:

  • In 2017, 25 people in 15 states became ill with E. coli between Nov. 5 and Dec. 12, with one patient in California dying. The CDC identified leafy greens as the likely source of the outbreak based on patient interviews but were unable to identify a specific type of leafy green that was responsible.
  • In 2018, 62 people in 16 states were infected with E. coli between Oct. 7 and Dec. 4, with 25 of them being hospitalized. Investigators traced the contamination back to a water reservoir for a farm in Santa Barbara, California, which provided romaine lettuce for retailers and restaurants. The CDC was unsure of why there was E. coli in the water supply and in which ways the water contaminated the lettuce.

Lettuce and E. Coli

It is imperative to throw out lettuce that is believed to have been contaminated by E. coli and to sterilize the drawer that it was in. People usually show symptoms from an E. coli infection after three or four days, which commonly include stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. Scientists and lettuce growers do not know what is causing the continued E. coli contaminations or how to prevent them. Suspected causes include:

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E. Coli in Ground Beef Sends More than 20 People to HospitalTwo ground beef distributors were recently forced to recall their products after an E. coli outbreak that sickened 177 people in 10 states. Though no one is reported to have died, 21 people have been hospitalized since the outbreak started in March. One of the distributors is based in the Chicago area and at least one of the victims is from Illinois. Victims have reportedly eaten the contaminated beef both at home and in restaurants. A Kentucky woman has already filed a lawsuit against one of the packing companies, claiming that the contaminated ground beef caused her to suffer kidney failure and seizures.

Dangers of E. Coli

The ground beef products contained a strain of E. coli O103. Ground beef has a higher-than-average risk of E. coli contamination because bacteria from the cattle’s intestines can infect the meat and ground beef can contain multiple cattle, which increases the risk that one of them had E. coli. Symptoms from consuming E. coli can take three-to-four days to develop and may include:

  • Stomach cramps;
  • Diarrhea, often bloody; and
  • Vomiting.

The symptoms can last seven days. In some cases, a patient may develop a form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can be life-threatening.

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