WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified the Kansas City facility of General Mills, Inc. as the “likely source” of an outbreak of E. coli O121 linked to flour.
As part of its investigation with state, local and federal health and regulatory officials, the C.D.C. said traceback investigations using package information collected from ill people and records collected from restaurants where ill people were exposed to raw dough indicated the flour was produced in the same week in November 2015 at the General Mills facility in Kansas City.
Sixteen (76%) of 21 people said they or someone in their household used flour in the week before they became ill, according to the C.D.C. Meanwhile, 9 (41%) of 22 people said they ate or tasted raw homemade dough or batter, and 12 (55%) of 22 people said they used General Mills’ Gold Medal brand flour. Three ill people reported eating or playing with raw dough at restaurants, the C.D.C. said.
“In an epidemiologic investigation, investigators compared the responses of ill people in this outbreak to those of people of similar age and gender reported to state health departments with other illnesses,” the C.D.C. said. “Preliminary results of this investigation indicate an association between STEC O121 infection and someone in the household using Gold Medal brand flour to make something to eat.”
Overall, 38 people in 20 states said they were infected with the outbreak strain between Dec. 21, 2015, and May 3, 2016. Ten of the people have been hospitalized, but the C.D.C. said no one has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure, and no deaths have been reported.
In connection with the outbreak, General Mills on May 31 said it has recalled approximately 10 million lbs of flour. At that time, General Mills said the outbreak potentially may be linked to Gold Medal flour, Wondra flour and Signature Kitchens flour (sold in Safeway, Albertsons, Jewel, Shaws, Vons, United, Randalls and Acme).
The company also said some of the ill people may have consumed raw dough or batter.
On June 2, Mike Siemienas, manager, brand media relations for General Mills, said the flour that is being voluntarily recalled was primarily produced at the General Mills plant in Kansas City, but he added that to date, “E. coli O121 has not been found in any General Mills flour products or in the manufacturing facility.”Specific product recall information can be found at www.generalmills.com/flour.