No leads yet in E. coli outbreak

Investigation at Nestlé’s Virginia plant by FDA continues

Speculation about the possible contamination of a popular brand of ready-to-bake cookie dough with E. coli O157:H7 continues, but so far there have been no leads.

It’s been a week since officials at Nestlé USA, based in Solon, Ohio, learned about a possible link to their Toll House cookie dough in a nationwide outbreak of E. coli. So far, at least 70 people have been sickened in 30 states, and 30 of those people have been hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Seven of the victims developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a form of kidney failure. No one has died.

Nestlé, in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC, is investigating whether their product is the source of the contamination, and just how E. coli may have ended up in their product. They issued a full recall of 300,000 cases of the cookie dough immediately after being notified by the FDA of the possible link to their company last week, and have closed their production facility in Virginia while the investigation continues.

“We just don’t know at this point,” said Nestlé spokeswoman Edie Burge early this afternoon. The FDA is looking at “every aspect of production,” she said, from the water the plant uses to operating procedures, and the manufacturing plant’s air control system.

Two lawsuits have been filed against Nestlé by people in California and Colorado, and another family in Oregon has asked for an apology from Nestle for the illness their teenage daughter suffered after eating what they believe was contaminated cookie dough.

“We just learned about this issue last week and reacted as quickly as we could,” Laurie MacDonald, vice president of corporate and brand affairs, told the Portland Oregonian earlier this week. “If it is determined that our product is the source of the girl’s illness, we will certainly apologize to her and her parents.”

If people do become ill, Nestlé encourages them to contact their physician, said Burge.

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