Cereal-linked Salmonella outbreak slowly grows

May 15, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – A Salmonella outbreak connected to puffed rice and puffed wheat cereals made by Malt-O-Meal, based in Minneapolis, has crept upward to 28 cases in 15 states, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on May 13.

The outbreak, which surfaced in mid-April, involves an uncommon strain, Salmonella enterica serotype Agona. The same strain caused an outbreak a decade ago that was linked to toasted oat cereals produced at the company's Northfield, Minn., plant.

In the CDC's most recent update, the number of cases is seven more than listed in the initial report. The number of states affected by the outbreak grew by two; most are in the Northeast and Midwest.

The Malt-O-Meal products that were implicated in the outbreak were recalled on Apr 5.

Illness onset dates were known for 23 patients and ranged from Jan 1 to Apr 10. Patients' ages range from 4 months to 95 years. Eight hospitalizations have been reported, but no deaths.

The CDC said several state health departments, along with the US Food and Drug Administration, are working to identify more cases and determine what factors led to the outbreak. However, in an earlier statement, the company said it had determined the cause of the contamination and corrected the problem. It did not reveal any details about the source.

In a 1998 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the CDC said S Agona made up about 1.5% of human Salmonella isolates and was found in several animal reservoirs, including poultry, cattle, and pigs, and in animal feed. Other outbreaks involving S Agona have been linked to dried milk and a commercial peanut-flavored snack.

See also:

May 13 CDC statement on Salmonella Agona outbreak

Apr 14 CIDRAP News story "Salmonella-tainted cereal sickens 21 in 13 states"

CDC. Multistate outbreak of Salmonella serotype Agona infections linked to toasted oats cereal—United States, April-May, 1998. MMWR 1998 Jun 12;47(22):462-4 [Full text]

This week's top reads