9 sick in Missouri, 2 kids in hospital, but raw milk faithful rally to the cause

Food to many is an evangelical calling.

Some find faith in monotheism, some in nature, some in the sports shrine (I prefer ice hockey, especially now that the playoffs have started and the cathedral once known as Maple-Leaf-Gardens-whatever-the-corporate-home-of-Toronto’s-disgrace-is-now is out of the theological debate), and some in the kitchen.

For some faiths, like creationism, biology don’t matter much.

So the headline in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, harking to centuries of food hucksterism, is not surprising: “Illnesses don’t dissuade raw milk fans.”

“Raw milk enthusiasts say an E. coli outbreak in Missouri won’t change their preference for unpasteurized dairy products.

“At least nine people in five counties in central and western Missouri have been sickened by E. coli since late March. Health officials have pointed to raw milk as a possible cause in at least four of the cases, including a 2-year-old from Columbia who remains hospitalized with severe complications.

“MooGrass Farms near Collinsville sells about 200 gallons of raw cow, goat and sheep milk each week, mostly to families from the St. Louis area, said the farm’s manager, Kevin Kosiek.

“His customers appreciate the taste of whole raw milk as well as the lack of heat processing that kills some of the nutrients.

"This is not a fad," Kosiek said. "People are going back to where people used to get their food, and that’s farmers doing natural, organic things."

“Kosiek and several other raw milk distributors said they doubt the E. coli outbreak will be ultimately linked to unpasteurized dairy products.”

Faith and biology don’t have to conflict. Facts are important, but never enough. It’s a religious thing.

A table of raw milk related outbreaks is available at: http://bites.ksu.edu/rawmilk.

7 now sick from E. coli linked to raw milk in Missouri

Two more cases of E. coli in central Missouri were confirmed Tuesday, bringing the total to seven people in the area who have recently been sickened by the same bacterial strain, state health officials said.

The patients include a 2-year-old from Boone County who is hospitalized with complications from the infection; a 17-month-old has also developed life-threatening complications affecting the kidneys. The other patients are all adults, health officials said.

5 sick, 2 kids with HUS; raw milk common theme in Missouri E. coli outbreak

The Columbia Tribune reports a Boone County, Missouri, 2-year-old infected with E. coli remained hospitalized this morning in Columbia as one of five Central Missouri residents battling the bacteria.

Geni Alexander, public information officer for the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, said the 2-year-old is one of three Boone County residents with either a confirmed or suspected case of the illness.

Alexander said health officials have determined that consumption of raw dairy products was the only common link for possible exposure among the three Boone County victims. She did not disclose the gender of the victims.

"Each person was identified as a raw dairy consumer," Alexander said, "but we can’t say they all got it from the same place."

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is investigating an increase in cases of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in Central Missouri from late March through early April. In addition to the Boone County 2-year-old, state health officials reported Thursday that a 17-month-old toddler also developed symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a severe condition that can lead to permanent kidney damage in some who survive the illness.

Alexander said the victims of the three Boone County cases range in age from 2 to 31. The 17-month-old victim is not a Boone County resident, she said.

"In public health, we always advise to stay away from those raw dairy products," she said.

A table of raw milk related outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/rawmilk.

2 kids hospitalized with HUS, 5 confirmed sick from Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli in Missouri

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is investigating an increase in cases of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in Central Missouri during late March and early April, 2012. Five cases of E. coli O157:H7 have been identified during this time period. Two of the cases, a two-year old child and a 17-month old child, reportedly have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

The investigation is ongoing and the source of the infections has not been identified.

Unsolved mysteries: source of E. coli illnesses not found

Yesterday I gave a talk to fresh produce farmers and told them that outbreaks happen all the time and only in special cases, when all the right data is available, are health officials able to pinpoint a cause. I think it made some of the audience mad, but that’s the reality. Outbreak investigations are at the mercy of individual recall and product movement and condition attributes. All of which are often incomplete. It’s like my kids trying to put together a puzzle without the corner or border pieces. Health officials in Missouri announced yesterday that their investigation into an outbreak of pathogenic E. coli has ended. With no real answers. While preliminary epidemiology pointed to an association with eating food purchased from Schnuck’s salad bars, that was as far as things got.

According to Missouri Net, the data just wasn’t there.

Director Margaret Donnelly says the inspections and food trace-back investigation by federal agencies were extensive, but did not reveal a definitive source. She says a grower in California was suspected of being connected but records were “insufficient to complete the picture.” She told the House Appropriations Committee on Health, Mental Health and Social Services it is not unusual for a source to go unidentified. “The food which caused the outbreak is identified in less than 50 percent of food bourne (sic) outbreaks, and the reason for that is because of the amount of time that passes from when the person is exposed to the pathogen until the public health receives a report. This incubation period can be up to ten days. In addition, after that period of time, food products are often no longer available for analysis.”

3 confirmed 2 probable E. coli in Columbia, Missouri

Three people in Boone County have confirmed cases of E. coli infection, and public health officials are awaiting results of lab tests on two other patients to confirm whether they also have the bacteria.

“We are doing thorough food-borne investigations as we always do,” said Geni Alexander, spokeswoman for the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services. She said there was no evidence that a particular location or food was linked to the confirmed and “suspect” cases.

“All five sought medical care,” Alexander said. “Two of the five cases required hospitalization.”

More E. coli, now in St Louis; at least 14 sick

Missouri health types have been notified of a suspected foodborne illness in the St. Louis metro area with 14 cases in the past 24 hours.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is assisting local health officials in the investigation, that includes testing for E. coli at the State Public Health Laboratory in Jefferson City, which has notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Jason Bradley: What did I just see you do with my sandwich

Failures in food hygiene are presented commonly. I experienced this while picking up my lunch recently in Springfield, Missouri. This quaint bar and grill near Sequiota Park presented me with the decision to eat it or not.

The chicken salad sandwich was excellent but watching the preparation was not excellent. The chicken salad mix was covered but sat on the prep counter at room temperature. The owner, I assume, spooned the salad mix onto a croissant that he had just bare handedly cut and separated into two halves. He patted the two halves back together when finished and he pushed the spewing excess back into the seams. He set the creation into a to-go box, piled a few potato chips on top (again bare handed), and got a pickle from somewhere (it wasn’t from a jar). He served it with a kind-of-a-smile that I hope does not cost me in the future.

Breaks in food hygiene protocol can cause significant discomfort to a large number of patrons. Bare hands and improperly-kept utensils can transfer foodborne-illness-causing bacteria to the prepared food or from potentially hazardous foods to ready-to-eat items. When a food preparer handles money, works the cash register, or touches the face or body while wearing gloves, the potential for contamination of ready-to-eat foods is also high.

A simple breech in food hygiene is not so simple to correct. The process of food safety is complicated and there is a constant vigilance required to prevent or mitigate foodborne illness.

1 dead, 10 sick from E. coli at Missouri Thanksgiving meal

Details are trickling out about the death of Jasper County, Missouri, resident from E. coli last week.

The Joplin Globe reports this morning that a food or a beverage served at a Thanksgiving dinner is the apparent source of an E. coli outbreak that killed a 51-year-old Carthage woman and sickened several other people.

Tony Moehr, director of the Jasper County Health Department, said,

“We have two confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 in Jasper County. One of the cases resulted in a death.”

Moehr said a third confirmed case of the bacterial infection has been reported in Dade County and involves someone who attended the Thanksgiving dinner.

“It appears the cases are related to a family gathering for Thanksgiving on Nov. 27,” he said. “We have identified seven or eight additional illnesses related to that gathering, but we don’t have the test results back for them. These cases occurred around the same period of time but were not as severe.”

It is believed that 11 of the 24 people who attended the event became ill.

The department, Moehr said, did not issue a press release about the E. coli death because the incident was associated with a family gathering and did not pose a threat to the public.

Missouri resident dies from E. coli; 10 others sick from family gathering

A Jasper County resident died earlier this week from what sounds like shiga-toxin producing E. coli food contamination and health department is investigating other possible cases that might be related to a single family gathering over Thanksgiving weekend.

Jasper County Health Department Director Tony Moehr told the Carthage Press the victim died this week of an extreme case of E. coli and his department is trying to determine what the people who got sick ate at this gathering, adding,

"Sometimes people have symptoms and they get over them in a day or a few days. In rare cases, severe E. coli poisoning can progress to conditions like hemolytic uremic syndrome that can cause the organs to shut down. That more severe form is apparently what happened in this case.”

Moehr said his office has collected the leftover food that remains from that family event. He said a total of 11 people out of 24 people who attended the event have reported some symptoms, including the one person who died.