Raw Cheese Linked to E. Coli Outbreak in 4 States, 10 Infected: FDA

Naveen Athrappully
By Naveen Athrappully
February 18, 2024Health News
Raw Cheese Linked to E. Coli Outbreak in 4 States, 10 Infected: FDA
Recalled RAW FARM-brand Raw Cheddar cheese products. (FDA)

An outbreak of E. coli bacteria has been confirmed in several states by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with the source of the outbreak identified to be cheese products.

“As of February 16, 2024, a total of 10 confirmed infections have been reported from four states,” the FDA said on Friday. This includes four cases in California, three in Colorado, two in Utah, and one in Texas. The multistate outbreak is linked to “Raw Cheddar” cheese made by RAW FARM, LLC, of Fresno, CA. All block sizes and shredded packages of the cheese’s “original flavor” and “cheddar with added jalapeno flavor” are associated with the outbreak. The FDA asked people not to eat, sell, or serve these products.

Out of the 10 infected individuals, four have been hospitalized. No deaths were reported. One person developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)—a serious condition that can result in kidney failure

“Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract. However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.”

The people affected by the outbreak are likely to share a common source of infection, the FDA stated.

In interviews with state and local officials, six reported they consumed RAW FARM- brand Raw Cheddar cheese. Epidemiologic evidence also shows that this cheese brand is the “likely source of this outbreak,” the agency said. RAW FARM has agreed to recall some lots of the cheese products.

The individuals reported purchasing RAW FARM cheese at Sprouts Farmers Market and Bristol Farms with the products also being sold by other retailers. The FDA advised retailers who had purchased the products and repackaged them for individual sale to remove the items from the market.

The agency also advised people to check their freezers or refrigerators for any of these items and discard them. Consumers, retailers, and restaurants that bought the cheese products should “carefully clean and sanitize any surfaces or containers that it touched.”

“Due to the range in severity of illness, people should consult their health care provider if they suspect that they have developed symptoms that resemble an E. coli infection,” said the agency.

“The investigation is ongoing to determine the source of contamination and whether additional products are linked to illnesses.”

The Infection

According to the CDC, the ages of individuals involved in the outbreak ranged from two to 58 years. The majority of them, seven out of ten cases, were males. Of the seven people whose races were identified, 86 percent were whites, with the remaining 14 percent Asian.

“The true number of sick people in this outbreak is likely much higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses,” the CDC said.

“This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for E. coli. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak.”

Symptoms of E. coli include diarrhea with a fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit; diarrhea for over three days without improvement; bloody diarrhea; vomiting; feeling fatigued; and signs of dehydration like dry mouth, dry throat, and insufficient peeing.

The E. coli strain involved in the outbreak is O157:H7, known to produce the Shiga toxin, one of the most potent bacterial toxins.

Symptoms of infection typically start three to four days after intaking the bacteria. Most people tend to recover without any treatment within five to seven days. However, some who may develop serious kidney issues may require hospitalization, according to the CDC.

People who are at a higher risk of foodborne infections from Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) include pregnant women, newborns, older adults, children, and people with weak immune systems, like those with HIV, cancer, and diabetes. The CDC advised people to “cook meats thoroughly” to kill harmful germs.

“Cook beef steaks and roasts to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees F (62.6 degrees C) and allow to rest for 3 minutes after you remove meat from the grill or stove … Cook ground beef and pork to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F (70 degrees C).”

People should ensure they do not cause cross-contamination in food preparation areas. As such, they should wash their hands thoroughly after touching raw meat. All utensils which come into contact with raw meat should also be washed.

In addition, raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices are better avoided, the CDC advised. When swimming in lakes, ponds, and streams, avoid swallowing water, the agency said.

From The Epoch Times

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