The Oregon Health Authority has verified that two confirmed cases of E. coli O157 infection are part of a national outbreak linked to a brand of soynut butter, and epidemiologists are advising consumers to discard the product immediately.
A total of 16 cases in nine states have been identified as part of the outbreak, which Oregon and the other states have been investigating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fourteen (88 percent) of these cases were under the age of 18; five (33 percent) cases resulted in HUS, a type of kidney failure and potentially life-threatening complication. In addition to the two Oregon cases, there were four in Arizona; four in California; and one each in Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. The illnesses are associated with consumption of I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter and I.M. Granola, made by SoyNut Butter Co. of Glenview, Ill.
“People need to know that if they have this product in their pantries, they should immediately return it to the store where they bought it, or throw it out,” said Paul Cieslak, MD, medical director for the Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section at the OHA Public Health Division. “If they ate the product and are experiencing symptoms of E. coli infection, they should see their health care provider right away.”
The illnesses are caused by Shiga-toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157. Some types of E. coli can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections. Most people exposed to E. coli O157:H7 develop bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Between 5 percent and 10 percent of those diagnosed with STEC infection develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially life-threatening complication that can begin even as the diarrhea is improving. HUS can occur in people of any age but is most common in children younger than 5 and the elderly.
The Oregon cases were siblings, both younger than 18, living in Clackamas County. They were not hospitalized, did not develop HUS and are recovering well. OHA epidemiologists collected a sample of the product from their home, and tests showed the presence of E. coli O157.
SoyNut Butter Co. has issued a national recall of all I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter and I.M. Granola. The recall notice can be viewed on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration website. According to the FDA, all “best-by” dates of all varieties of the products are affected. I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter has been packaged in 15-ounce plastic jars, individual portion cups, 4-pound plastic tubs and 45-pound pails. SoyNut Butter is available in Original Creamy, Chunky, Honey Creamy, Unsweetened and Chocolate. The granola has been packaged in individual serving packages, 12-ounce bags, 50-ounce bags and 25-pound bulk bags. I.M. Healthy Granola is available in Original, Apple, Blueberry, and Raisin and Cranberry.
OHA investigates about 200 cases of illness caused by STEC in Oregon each year. In 2016, 191 cases were identified, and so far 14 cases have been reported in 2017.