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European Union Reference Laboratory for Escherichia coli

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This section contains information and documents on with key facts related with pathogenic E. coli from human cases of diseases and the vehicles of infections.

E. coli Outbreak Linked to Baby Spinach

E. coli Outbreak Linked to Baby Spinach

Posted December 3, 2021

Fast Facts

  • Illnesses: 14  (4 new)
  • Hospitalizations: 4  (2 new)
  • Deaths: 0
  • States: 9  (2 new)
  • Recall: No
  • Investigation status: Active

Contaminated Food

Josie’s Organics Baby Spinach

  • Sold at stores nationwide
  • “Best by” date of October 23, 2021
  • Sold in plastic clamshell containers

Minnesota officials found E. coli O157:H7 in a package of leftover Josie’s Organics baby spinach collected from a sick person’s home. Ten people in this outbreak reported eating spinach in the week before they got sick and six reported Josie’s Organics brand.

Investigators are working to determine if additional products may be contaminated.

Investigation Details

Posted December 3, 2021

Epidemiologic and laboratory data show that Josie’s Organics prepackaged baby spinach with a “best by” date of October 23, 2021, may be contaminated with E. coli and may be making people sick.

Epidemiologic Data

Since the last update on November 15, four more illnesses have been reported. As of December 3, 2021, a total of 14 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from nine states (see map). Illnesses started on dates ranging from October 13, 2021, to October 27, 2021 (see timeline).

Sick people range in age from 2 to 76 years, with a median age of 26, and 79% are female. Of 12 people with information available, 4 have been hospitalized and 3 developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). No deaths have been reported.

The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely much higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses. This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for E. coli. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak.

State and local public health officials are interviewing people about the foods they ate in the week before they got sick. Of the 12 people interviewed, 10 (83%) reported eating spinach in the week before they got sick. This percentage was significantly higher than the 46% of respondents who reported eating spinach in the previous week in the FoodNet Population Survey, a survey that helps estimate how often people eat various foods. This difference suggests that people in this outbreak got sick from eating spinach. Six people reported eating Josie’s Organics brand spinach.

Laboratory Data

On November 15, 2021, CDC reported that officials in Minnesota found E. coli O157:H7 in a package of leftover Josie’s Organics baby spinach collected from a sick person’s home. Whole genome sequencing (DNA fingerprinting for bacteria) showed that the E. coli O157:H7 in the leftover package of spinach is closely related to bacteria isolated from ill people. This means that the person likely got sick from eating the spinach.

Public Health Actions

CDC is advising people not to eat, sell or serve Josie’s Organics prepackaged baby spinach with “best by” date of October 23, 2021.