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70 E. Coli Reports linked to Recalled Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough

Jun 24, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Nestle Toll House cookie dough has now been associated with 70 cases of E. coli O157:H7 in 30 states.  The outbreak has prompted Nestle to close a plant in Virginia where the cookie dough was made, and Food &  Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors are currently on the scene.

Last Friday, the FDA warned consumers not to eat any varieties of Prepackaged Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough following reports of people infected with E. coli O157:HY  in dozens of states.  At the time, the agency said the E. coli  illnesses might be related to consumption of raw cookie dough.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 30 people have been hospitalized,  and  7 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).  None have died.   The majority of those sickened - 66%  - are under the age of 19, and three quarters  are female.

The E. coli outbreak prompted Nestle USA to initiate a voluntary recall of the products. The recall includes all varieties of Nestle Toll House refrigerated Cookie Bar Dough, Cookie Dough Tub; Cookie Dough Tube; Limited Edition Cookie Dough items; Seasonal Cookie Dough and Ultimates Cookie Bar Dough.  The FDA has advised consumers to dispose of the cookie dough if they have it.  Cooking the dough is not recommended because consumers might get the bacteria on their hands and on other cooking surfaces.

Earlier this week, Nestle announced the temporary closing of its Danville, Virginia plant because of the E. coli outbreak, a move that puts some 200 employees out of work. According to UPI, the plant also produces Buitoni pasta and sauce, but manufacturing  of those products won't be affected by the closure.  

According to USAToday, inspectors from the FDA will stay in Danville as long as it takes to determine how E. coli might have made it into the cookie dough.  The bacteria is usually associated with raw hamburger. David Acheson, the FDA's assistant commissioner for food safety told USAToday that the agency is looking at several possible scenarios, including via cross-contamination or a sick worker.

E. coli O157:H7 causes abdominal cramping, vomiting and a diarrheal illness, often with bloody stools. Most healthy adults can recover completely within a week. Young children and the elderly are at highest risk for developing HUS, which can lead to serious kidney damage and even death. According to the CDC, E. coli O157:H7 is responsible for sickening 73,000 people every year, and of those, 60 will die from the disease.

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