One company, Dixie Dew Products Inc., was named and shut down by the FDA in March 2017. The company was blamed for an ongoing nationwide outbreak of E. coli in the United States. Records and employees of Dixie Dew revealed that the company had food safety violations going back at least 15 years.
Officials believe they have all the potentially contaminated products made with the soy paste produced by the Kentucky company after a massive recall, but they are still asking people who use the paste or its products to double check the ingredients they have on hand.
The first product to be recalled was The SoyNut Butter Co. I.M. Healthy brand products, which were made with soy paste from Dixie Dew earlier in March after E. coli infections were linked to them with DNA analysis. Next, the recall was expanded to include Dixie Diner’s Carb Not Beanie Butter. Following that, “Yogurt Peanut Crunch” protein bars were recalled.
So far, at least 29 confirmed infections can be linked to the outbreak strain of E. coli across 12 states. Of the 29 infected, 24 are minors. Some were infected after eating soy-butter coated granola bars at a daycare center. At least a dozen victims have needed hospitalization after severe symptoms, and 9 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a kind of kidney failure.
After the FDA had begun its investigation, they found absolutely filthy conditions in the Dixie Dew facility that produced the soy butter. They noted:
- Broken temperature control equipment
- Infestations of flies and larva
- Roof leaks in production areas
- Food production tools stored on dirty, wet floors
- Equipment that hadn’t been repaired for 15 years
- Soy paste production machines that hadn’t been cleaned since 2015
- Lack of hot water in hand-washing sinks
- Failure to perform microbial testing to identify possible food contamination
E. coli is a type of bacteria that usually lives in the intestines of people and animals; however, some strains, like the one spread by this company, cause intestinal infection. Symptoms of the disease include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Sudden, severe and watery diarrhea
- Bloody stools
- Loss of appetite
Symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to a week. More serious symptoms can include decreased urine output, bloody urine, pale skin, dehydration, and bruising. HUS can develop in 8 % of those infected. It is a condition in which the red blood cells are damaged and lead to kidney failure, which can be life-threatening to children and the elderly.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 1 in 6 Americans are made ill by foodborne illnesses every year—about 48 million people. If you think you’ve been affected by this E. coli outbreak, see your doctor. If he or she determines that you’ve been infected with E. coli, you might want to consult a good product liability lawyer. The bacteria can be easily prevented from contaminating food by simply following safe food handling practices, such as washing hands and ensuring the preparation area is sterile. In the case of this company, several practices that should have been followed were neglected by company management.
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