Frozen pizza suspected in 10-state E coli outbreak

Nov 1, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – General Mills recalled about 414,000 cases of frozen pizza today after health officials said it could be linked to an Escherichia coli outbreak that has sickened 21 people in 10 states.

The recalled products are Totino's and Jeno's pizzas that contain pepperoni topping, which could be contaminated with E coli O157:H7, General Mills, based in Minneapolis, said in a press release today. The frozen pizzas are produced at the company's Wellston, Ohio, plant.

The recalled package numbers bear the establishment number "EST. 7750" inside the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) inspection mark and have a "best if used by" date of Apr 8, 2008, according to a press release today from the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The products were produced on or before Oct 30 and were distributed to retail outlets nationwide.

The recall was prompted by an investigation by the Tennessee Department of Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) into a multistate cluster of E coli O157:H7 illnesses, the USDA.

A case-control study suggested that Totino's and Jeno's brands of pizza that contained pepperoni were the likely source of the illness, the CDC said today in a press release. However, the CDC said the source of contamination has not been confirmed.

The CDC said that of the 21 patients whose isolates match the outbreak strain, 8 are from Tennessee, 3 are from Kentucky, and the rest are from Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Virginia. Eight have been hospitalized, and four have been treated for hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially deadly kidney condition.

General Mills said the earliest case reported to health officials occurred on Jul 20 and the latest case on Oct 10. The company said it has distributed more than 120 million pizzas since Jul 1.

The CDC said consumers should not eat the recalled products, and those who experienced diarrhea within a week after eating them should notify their medical provider and seek care.

E coli O157:H7 outbreaks are most often associated with ground beef, though some have been linked to fresh produce in recent years. The strain produces a toxin that causes diarrhea—often bloody—and abdominal cramps but typically no fever. The illness usually resolves in 5 to 10 days, but it can cause HUS in 2% to 7% of patients.

See also:

Nov 1 General Mills press release

Nov 1 FSIS press release

Nov 1 CDC press release

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