It’s not uncommon for warm weather to bring much higher rates of foodborne illness (and here’s the science to explain why). But in the saddest of cases, food poisoning turns far worse than an upset stomach. Public health officials have discovered the very unusual way tainted yogurt caused a two-year-old child to suffer extremely serious illness that led to hospitalization.
On Thursday, the Arizona Republic reported that public health officials in that state have investigated what caused a two-year-old little girl to experience acute kidney failure. Right up front, we’ll note that despite the severity of her condition, the child did not have to undergo dialysis and fortunately is now recovering.
After an investigation, the public health officials, in collaboration with food safety experts, “said the girl’s infection has been genetically linked to the same E. coli strain that has sickened at least 11 other people in Washington state,” according to the report. Further, the Arizona Department of Health Services confirmed that the child’s case “matches a cluster of cases tied to yogurt sold only in Washington.” The cases were all first reported between March and April.
The Republic also reported that the organic yogurt was manufactured by Pure Eire Dairy in Othello, Washington. What makes this tricky for consumers is that the yogurt was sold under various label names to retailers throughout Washington.
What the investigators find so strange about this case is that it seems the Arizona child herself did not consume the yogurt. Instead, three child cousins visited her family from Washington state and had not been feeling well, which investigators also tied to their exposure to E. coli after apparently eating this yogurt.
This marks a very unusual occurrence, according to the family’s attorney, Bill Marler, who is said to be a renowned food safety attorney based in Seattle. The report stated: “Marler said E. coli can pass from one sick person to another, but he’s never seen a secondary transfer across state lines.” Marler himself added: “I’ve just never had that situation … I’ve been doing this for 28 years and have never seen a case like that.”
Pure Eire Dairy, which reportedly faced an E. coli crisis back in 2013, issued a recall on May 14. The company said: “Out of abundance of caution, we have halted sales and production of our yogurt products as we investigate a possible link to E. Coli contamination … If you know us, you know safe, quality products are what we have always strived for.” They add: “Refunds will be available.”
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