Federal health officials have issued a final report about the investigation into an E. coli outbreak linked to General Mills flour products.
In a final report issued on September 29, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 17 more E. coli cases have been confirmed since late July, bringing the outbreak to 63 people sickened in 24 states, the (Minnesota) PostBulletin reports.
The illnesses started in December 2015, with new cases reported as recently as early September 2016. The people who became ill range in age from age from 1 to 95. To date, no deaths have been reported, according to the PostBulletin. The CDC said illnesses might continue for some time because the recalled flour products have long shelf lives and unused flour may still be in people’s homes.
The investigators say laboratory evidence and traceback evidence showed that flour produced at a General Mills facility in Kansas City, Missouri was the likely source of the outbreak. General Mills issued multiple recalls on different sizes and varieties of Gold Medal Flour, Gold Medal Wondra Flour and Signature Kitchens Flour due to possible E. coli contamination. The recall also includes some Betty Crocker cake mixes. Images of the recalled products along with UPC codes and Better If Used By dates can be found on the General Mills website.
General Mills reminds consumers they should not eat uncooked dough or batter made with raw flour. “Flour is made from wheat that is grown outdoors where bacteria are often present. Flour is typically not treated to kill bacteria during the normal milling process,” the recall statement on the website explains. General Mills further advises anyone using the flour to properly cook or bake the food to eliminate bacteria that might be found in the raw flour.
Some strains of E. coli bacteria can cause potentially life-threatening infections, especially in older adults, young children and people with weakened immune systems. Symptoms can include diarrhea and abdominal cramps. In severe cases, the patient can develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. The E. coli strains that can cause infection can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.
Consumers should check any General Mills flour they have on hand and throw any products that are included in the recall. If possible, save the product name, UPC (bar code) and Better if Used By Date and the Consumer Relations department will send a replacement coupon. If the consumer has transferred the flour to a container and no longer has the package or if the consumer has any doubts about flour in their pantry, General Mills advises throwing away the flour.
The recall began on May 31, 2016, when General Mills recalled several sizes and varieties of Gold Medal Flour, Gold Medal Wondra Flour, and Signature Kitchens Flour due to possible E. coli contamination. On July 1, 2016, General Mills expanded the recall to include additional lots of flour. The recalled flours were sold nationwide.