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Two More Illnesses May Be Tied to Oregon Strawberries

Food Safety News

by Mary Rothschild

Aug 12, 2011

Two more cases of E. coli infection could be linked to strawberries sold at roadside stands and at farmers markets in Oregon, according to the Daily Astorian.

The additional suspected cases were reported to the Clatsop County Public Health Department on Wednesday. At least one of the case patients was said to have eaten strawberries traced to Jaquith Strawberry Farms in Newberg, which has been implicated as the source of the outbreak.

So far, lab tests have confirmed that 13 have been sickened in the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, the first in the U.S. tied to strawberries. At least five other cases in northwest Oregon appear to be part of the illness cluster. Six people have been hospitalized and two suffered kidney failure, including an elderly woman who died.

On Thursday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published the Oregon Public Health safety alert about the strawberries, which advises that strawberries from Jaquith Farms that were frozen or used to make uncooked jam are unsafe and should be thrown out.

Nearly all the case patients told investigators they had eaten local strawberries before they became ill. Pinpointing the farm was complicated, however, because some vendors had purchased the fruit from Jaquith Farms and then passed it off as their own, according to The Oregonian's Lynne Terry.

The state agriculture department's head of food safety told Terry that reselling another farmer's produce is illegal "but more common than we thought."

William Keene, senior epidemiologist at Oregon Public Health, suspects deer droppings may have contaminated strawberries in the fields. E. coli O157:H7 is carried by ruminants, and shed in their excrement. Deer were also the likely source of the 1996 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in unpasteurized Odwalla apple juice that sickened 76 and killed a child.

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