Snack implicated in 17-state Salmonella outbreak

Jun 29, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – An epidemiologic investigation of 52 cases of Salmonella infection in 17 states, most of them in children, has prompted a nationwide recall of a snack called Veggie Booty, federal health agencies reported yesterday.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised consumers to throw away any Veggie Booty on hand. The snack is made of puffed rice and corn with a vegetable coating and is sold in flexible plastic foil bags in 4-ounce, 1-ounce, and half-ounce sizes, federal officials said.

"Interviews comparing foods eaten by ill and well persons show that consumption of Robert's American Gourmet brand Veggie Booty was statistically associated with illness and therefore the most likely source of the outbreak," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement.

An official of Robert's American Gourmet, based in Sea Cliff, N.Y., said no samples of the product so far had tested positive for Salmonella, according to an Associated Press report published yesterday.

The FDA said anyone who has had diarrhea after eating the snack should contact a healthcare provider and report the illness to state or local health authorities.

The FDA and CDC said the cases began in March. Almost all the illnesses were in children under age 10, with most of them in toddlers. Most of the patients had bloody diarrhea, and four were hospitalized, officials said. No deaths have been reported. Only eight cases were reported before May 1, and the number has gradually increased, according to the CDC.

The CDC said it worked with state and local health department officials for weeks on the investigation, interviewing parents of sick children. The outbreak is considered likely to be continuing, said the FDA, which learned of the outbreak from the CDC on Jun 27.

The CDC listed the Salmonella serotype identified in the illnesses as Wandsworth, a rare strain. It was not among the seven most common Salmonella serotypes identified in the CDC's FoodNet data for 2006, according to a report published in April.

The FDA listed the states and numbers of cases in the outbreak as follows: California, 7; Colorado, 5; Connecticut, 1; Georgia, 1; Indiana, 1; Massachusetts, 3; Minnesota, 2; New Hampshire, 2; New Jersey, 2; New York, 13; Oregon, 1, Pennsylvania, 3; Tennessee, 1, Texas, 1; Vermont, 3; Washington, 4; and Wisconsin, 2.

Veggie Booty is sold at retail stores in all 50 states and Canada and also over the Internet, the FDA said.

On its Web site, Robert's American Gourmet said consumers who have the product should discard the contents and call the company at 1-800-626-7557. Customers can return empty bags to the place of purchase or the company for reimbursement, the company said.

Most people infected with Salmonella experience diarrhea, often with fever and abdominal cramps, within 12 to 72 hours after infection, the CDC said. Most people recover in 4 to 7 days without treatment, but elderly people, infants, and those with an impaired immune system may suffer severe illness.

See also:

Jun 28 FDA news release

CDC information on outbreak

CDC answers to frequently asked questions about the outbreak

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