According to a report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday, an E. Coli outbreak which sickened 38 people earlier this year may be tied to the flour produced at a General Mills plant on Guinotte Avenue, in Kansas City, Missouri.
CDC, FDA investigators, and state authorities have been looking for the source of the infection since the beginning of the year. The outbreak affected 20 states.
CDC released the report a day after the company agreed to recall voluntarily 10 million pounds of possibly contaminated flour. About half of patients said that they used the flour in cooking before becoming sick.
A dozen of patients reported they used Gold Medal flour. Nevertheless, CDC said that only the flour packed at the Missouri plant over a single week in last November had traces of E Coli in it.
General Mills noted on the day of the voluntary recall that some costumers admitted eating raw batter or dough before they felt ill. The company added that it has conducted a separate investigation on its own to see whether the E. Coli infection was linked to the flour produced at its plant.
The food company recalled several brands of flour including Signature Kitchen, Gold Medal, and Gold Medal Wondra. CDC recommends retailers, customers and restaurants alike to discard the recalled flour if they have any.
CDC also announced that tests from the FDA and state agencies revealed no traces of the bacteria in the recalled flour. But the recall was necessary “out of an abundance of caution,” as General Mills put it.
The company also said that no consumer complaints have linked the flour to an E. Coli infection so far.
Infection with the E. Coli bacteria is a serious condition which affects mostly the intestines of people with weakened immune systems such as the elderly, small children, pregnant women, and people with underlying medical conditions.
Symptoms include fever, diarrhea, and stomach pain. In the worst cases, it can lead to severe dehydration, hemorrhagic diarrhea, or kidney failure. Symptoms emerge between one to five days following the infection.
It is mainly a foodborne disease and proper hygiene and food preparation are sufficient to prevent it. Most cases of the infection do not need hospitalization. Of the 38 people sickened in the latest outbreak just 10 landed in a hospital.
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