28th June 2016 Content supplied by: FDA
General Mills Flour Recalled as Most Likely Source of E.coli O121
Beginning on May 21st 2016, as a precautionary measure, General Mills voluntarily began to recall various sizes and types of their flour products due to the possibility of contamination with E.coli. Across 20 states, between December 21st 2015 to May 3rd 2016 there have been a total of 38 instances of illness linked to E.coli O121 with a positive microbiological test of General Mills recalled flour in June 2016 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In the early stages of investigation, the Centre for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) discovered that in roughly 50% of individuals affected they had reported that they had made a food item with homemade flour at a point before falling ill (with some specifically reporting the use of a General Mills brand of flour). Additionally, from information that has been shared with General Mills, it has come to light that some of the consumers who fell ill may have consumed raw dough or batter.
General Mills is working with health officials in order to speedily investigate this outbreak. The company is also using the opportunity to educate consumers about food safety, namely the importance of not consuming raw flour products and reminding consumers about other hygiene methods such as hand washing and thorough cleansing of work surfaces and utensils following contact with raw dough or flour. Liz Nordiie, President of General Mills Baking Division states “we felt it was important to not only recall the product and replace it for consumers if there was any doubt, but also to take this opportunity to remind our consumers how to safely handle flour.”
The CDC as well as local and state public health associates are carrying out continual laboratory surveillance through PulseNet with the aim of identifying more people affected and to interview them regarding the foods they consumed before falling ill.
On July 1, 2016, following a call with the FDA and CDC, General Mills expanded its recall of Gold Medal flour, Wondra flour, and Signature Kitchens flour.
Testing by FDA has now identified E. coli O121 in open product samples collected from ill people in Arizona and Oklahoma. FDA whole genome sequencing of the E.coli O121 isolate from the Arizona product sample is closely genetically related to the outbreak strain. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) shows that the Oklahoma product sample isolates match the outbreak strain. The General Mills flour sample collected from the Oklahoma patient was purchased outside of the company’s original recall date range.
Date Published: 28th June 2016
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