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Nestle’s Danville, VA Plant Gets Visits From Federal Food Safety Officials

Federal food safety officials are on the ground at the Danville, VA plant (see picture on right) that made the recalled Nestle’s cookie dough, the Washington Post reported this morning.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is trying to solve the mystery of why and how a bacteria found in the gut of a cow found its way into raw cookie dough, causing a national E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak. From the WP:

Health officials and food producers puzzled yesterday over how E. coli 0157, a bacterium that lives in the intestines of cattle, could have ended up in a product that seems so unlikely to contain it. "It’s a fascinating outbreak," said Craig Hedberg, an expert on food-borne diseases at the University of Minnesota. "By just looking at package labeling, there is no reason you would expect an event like this to occur."

The outbreak, which has sickened at least 65 people in 29 states, is the latest worry for consumers in the Washington area and across the country unnerved by a wave of food-borne illnesses, including botulism associated with canned chili and infections from salmonella linked to peanut products. With cookie dough, like peanut butter, being a favorite of children, the latest outbreak is particularly alarming because the young and the elderly are more likely to develop severe complications if infected with E. coli 0157. More than two-thirds of the 65 victims are younger than 19, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. None has died.

The same article raises Nestle’s warning not to eat raw cookie dough. But then reports: William Marler, a prominent food safety lawyer in Seattle who is representing six of the E. coli 0157 victims, said Nestlé’s warning label is not a defense. "It doesn’t absolve them of liability," he said.

Read more in the Washington Post.

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