- The Washington Times
Monday, April 3, 2017

An E. coli outbreak that has sickened 29 people in 12 states has been linked to soy nut butter products from a Kentucky-based processing plant.

The Food and Drug Administration has suspended production at Dixie Dew Products in Erlanger, Kentucky. The FDA identified Dixie Dew as the most likely source of E. coli contamination in I.M. Healthy SoyNut butter products.

So far, the outbreak has sickened 29 people, 12 of whom have been hospitalized. The most recently reported case is a teenage girl in Manatee County, Florida, who has been hospitalized after consuming an I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter product.

The Bradenton Herald reported Sunday that Lily O’Neal, 14, suffered kidney failure, fell into a coma and suffered temporary paralysis over a monthlong period. Her mother said the family realized they had purchased one of the I.M. Healthy products at a local supermarket.

The foods believed to be contaminated with E. coli include I.M. Healthy Granola products, Dixie Diner’s Club brand Carb Not Beanit Butter, and Yogurt Peanut Crunch Bars.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges the public to dispose of any of these products in their homes, either by returning them to the store where they were purchased or discarding them in a sealed plastic bag.

Products were distributed in several states, were available for purchase in stores or online, and were distributed to child care centers and schools in multiple states, the company wrote in its recall.

In early March, the FDA alerted the I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter company about the contamination, and the company issued a recall of some of its products.

The FDA linked the contaminated products to the Dixie Dew processing plant, and an inspection visit in early March revealed egregious health violations justifying the plant’s shutdown.

During a seven-day visit, FDA inspectors noted rodent and fly infestation, heavily soiled manufacturing and cleaning equipment, a broken soap dispenser and no hot water for employees to wash their hands, among other violations.

In addition to producing alternative peanut products, Dixie Dew makes marinara sauces, meat glazes, dry-mix products and the Harry’s Choice chocolate and caramel dessert toppings, its website states. The company says it doesn’t list the names of the products because of client confidentiality.

E. coli is a bacterium that affects the digestive system, most frequently causing diarrhea and bloody stool, the FDA says on its website.

The CDC identified the particular strain as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. While the illness usually resolves itself in a week, the most extreme cases can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome. This can cause permanent damage to the kidneys and even death. Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable.

No deaths have been reported, but the CDC said nine people were hospitalized for hemolytic uremic syndrome and 24 of the cases involved people younger than 18.

Illnesses linked to E. coli were reported for nine people in Oregon, five in California, four in Arizona, two in Washington and Virginia each, and one case each reported in Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey and Wisconsin.

• Laura Kelly can be reached at lkelly@washingtontimes.com.

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