General Mills flour 'likely' source of multistate E.coli outbreak, says CDC

By Vince Bamford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Some ill people had used General Mills flour. Photo: iStock - Gosphotodesign
Some ill people had used General Mills flour. Photo: iStock - Gosphotodesign

Related tags: Escherichia coli

General Mills flour – voluntarily recalled by the manufacturer earlier this week – is the “likely” source of a multistate E. coli outbreak, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The manufacturer this week announced it was recalling 10 million pounds​ of flour sold under brands including Gold Medal and Wondra out of “an abundance of caution​.” (See table at bottom of story.)

Thirty-eight people ranging in age from one to 95 have fallen ill as a result of the outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli​ O121 (STEC O121) infections.

Ten people have been hospitalized, said the CDC, although none have developed kidney failure, and no deaths have been reported.

Database of bacteria DNA

Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system - a national database of bacteria DNA from sick people - to identify illnesses that may be part of the outbreak.

The first was recorded in December 2015 and the most recent early last month. Further cases may come to light, as the CDC said there is typically a two- to three-week delay between a person becoming ill and the illness being reported. Cases have so far been identified across 20 states (see map).

While the investigation by state, local, and federal health and regulatory officials is ongoing, preliminary results indicate an association between STEC O121 infection and someone in affected households using Gold Medal brand, according to the agency.

Flour used in 76% of households

In interviews, 16 (76%) of 21 people reported they or someone in their household used flour in the week before they became ill; nine (41%) of 22 reported eating or tasting raw homemade dough or batter; and 12 (55%) of 22 people reported using Gold Medal brand flour. Three ill people reported eating or playing with raw dough at restaurants.

Federal, state and local regulatory officials performed traceback investigations using package information collected from ill people and records collected from restaurants where ill people were exposed to raw dough.

CDC ecoli map
Spread of E. coli outbreak, as of May 31, 2016. Source: cdc.gov

This indicated the flour used by ill people or in restaurants was produced in the same week in November 2015 at the General Mills facility in Kansas City, Missouri.

No E. coli found at factory

General Mills this week said no E. coli O121 had been found in any General Mills flour products or in the flour manufacturing facility.

In its recall notice, the manufacturer reminded consumers to not eat any raw products made with flour – a warning echoed by the CDC.

Investigators are continuing laboratory surveillance through PulseNet to identify additional ill people and to interview those people about foods they ate before they got sick.

Flour recall: list of affected General Mills products

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