Sunday, December 25, 2016

United States 1993 food contamination of E. coli

E. coli O157:H7 has become well known for its association with food borne illness outbreaks related to produce. Unpasteurized apple juice, apple cider, cantaloupe, sprouts lettuce and spinach are some of the suspected or implicated vehicles on outbreaks of E. coli.

Food contamination by E. coli bacteria in Western Washington gained wide attention was a multistate outbreak between 15 November 1992 and 28 February 1993. This outbreak resulted in more than 700 illnesses, 195 hospitalizations and four deaths.

In January and February 1993, food contamination by E. coli bacteria kills three children in Western Washington. More than 450 persons fall ill or being exposed to infected persons epidemiologically linked to the consumption of undercooked hamburger patties or a single chain restaurants.

The source of the contamination will be traced to Jack in the Box Restaurants and to its meat supplier, Von's in California. Definitively it pointed to ground beef as the source of the infections.

On January 11, 1993, young Michael Nole and his family ate dinner at a Jack-in-the-Box restaurant in Tacoma, Washington, where Michael enjoyed his $2.69 ‘Kid’s Meal’. The next day, Michael was admitted to Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle with severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. Several days later Michael died of kidney and heart failure.

Between January 3 and January 17, 1993, 50 people, most of them children and most of them in Western Washington, reported to hospitals complaining of severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. Some children had to be placed on dialysis after their kidneys failed.

On January 19 alone, 38 people reported the symptoms. Ultimately, three children died, a two-year-old girl from Snohomish County, a two-year-old boy from Tacoma, and a 16-month-old boy from Bellingham. Children who survive E. coli illness often develop kidney problems in 10 to 15 years.

Some survivors lost organs such as colons and gall bladders which were damaged.

Origin of the Outbreak
The bacterium, officially known as Escherichia coli O157:H7 was traced to undercooked hamburger served at Jack in the Box Restaurants in Washington, California, Nevada and Utah.

Investigation by health officials found that Jack in the Box had received the large tubes of ground beef from a November 19, 1992, production run at Von's in California. One child in San Diego died in December after eating hamburger from a fast food restaurant there. Jack in the Box offered to pay the medical costs of all the victims.

A meat trace back identified five slaughter plants in the United States and one in Canada as the likely sources of carcasses used in the contaminated lots of meat.

By the end of March 1993, reports of the illness had stopped. About 700 people had developed diarrheal disease symptoms, and 56 of them had developed a very severe disease called ‘hemolytic uremic syndrome’ after the diarrhea subsided.

Food inspection official later confirmed that the source of the E. coli 0157:H7 was the Monster Burger, which was part of a promotion and was sold at a reduced price. Demand for the burgers was unusually high, and the restaurant had difficulty keeping up with it. As a result, the burgers were not cooked long enough to kill the E. coli bacterium.

After the Jack-in-the-Box poisonings, the federal government recommended that all states increase their cooking temperature requirements to 155 degrees. Burger King cooks to 160 degree; Hardee’s, Wendy’s and Taco Bell cook to 165 degree. The US Agriculture Department also changed its meat inspection standards.
United States 1993 food contamination of E. coli
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