Patients confirmed in 10 states

CDC declares outbreak traced to organic baby spinach

Federal officials have announced that an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections traced to organic spinach is over. The implicated Josie’s Organics prepackaged baby spinach had a best-by date of Oct. 23, 2021.

As of Jan. 6, a total of 15 people had been confirmed sick from the outbreak strain of E. coli, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The sick people were spread across 10 states.

No deaths were reported, but four patients required hospitalization, and three developed a life-threatening kidney failure complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). No deaths were reported. 

“The true number of sick people in this outbreak was likely much higher than the number reported, and this outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses. This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for E. coli,” the CDC reported.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from Oct. 13, 2021, to Nov. 8, 2021. Sick people ranged in age from 1 to 76 years, with a median age of 26, and 80 percent were female. 

State and local public health officials interviewed people about the foods they ate in the week before they got sick. Of the 13 people interviewed, a total of 11 reported remembering eating spinach.

Public health investigators used the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that were part of this outbreak. CDC PulseNet manages a national database of DNA fingerprints of bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. DNA fingerprinting is performed on bacteria using a method called whole-genome sequencing (WGS).

WGS showed that bacteria from sick people’s samples were closely related genetically. This suggests that people in this outbreak got sick from the same food.

Officials in Minnesota found the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 in a package of leftover Josie’s Organics baby spinach collected from a sick person’s home.

FDA conducted a traceback investigation for the positive product sample and traced it back to a small number of farms in two different geographic regions. However, investigators did not identify a potential point of contamination.

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