Oregon public health officials traced an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 to strawberries grown at Jaquith Strawberry Farm , a medium-sized strawberry producer in rural Washington County, Oregon.
According to a news release from the Oregon Health Authority:
E. coli is a common inhabitant of the gastrointestinal tract and is usually harmless. But E. coli O157:H7 is a strain of the bacterium carried by some animals, that can contaminate food and water, and that produces toxins that can cause mild to severe intestinal illness, including severe cramps and diarrhea that is often bloody. Some patients develop complications that require hospitalization. Approximately 5 percent of infected persons, especially young children and the elderly, suffer serious and potentially fatal kidney damage.
So far during this outbreak, one woman has died from kidney failure and at least 16 other people have taken ill.
Everyone who purchase d fresh strawberries at roadside stands and farmers markets in Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Yamhill and Clatsop counties through August 1 is at risk, and should dispose of those strawberries immediately. Oregon public health officials are concerned that consumers might have stored berries in the freezer or turned them into uncooked jam. While cooking kills E. coli O157:H7, it can live a long time in uncooked food, even in uncooked food that is frozen.
Oregon news outlets reported this morning that the strawberry fields may have been contaminated by deer. State public health officials found no unsafe practices at the Jaquith Strawberry Farm.
The Oregon Strawberry Commission recommends that people take the following precautions with any uncooked produce:
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
- Keep fruits and vegetables and other raw food separate from cooked food
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap after handling raw foods, before eating, and after using the bathroom.
Learn more about food safety here.