US: FDA finds E. coli in Nestlé samples
Posted: June 30th, 2009 - 11:51am
Source: Washington Post
The Food and Drug Administration said yesterday that it had confirmed the presence of E. coli O157, a deadly strain of bacteria, in samples of Nestlé Toll House refrigerated cookie dough produced at the company's plant in Danville, Va.
Investigators did not find the bacterium inside the factory or on equipment but in a tub of chocolate cookie dough made at the site in February, said David Acheson, assistant commissioner for food safety at the FDA. The dough had a June 10 expiration date.
Nestlé voluntarily recalled 30,000 cases of its refrigerated cookie dough on June 19 after officials at the FDA and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suspected that dozens of cases of E. coli-related illness were linked to the product.
Nearly all the victims, most of whom are female and younger than 19, reported eating raw cookie dough in the days before the onset of symptoms.
Health officials still do not know how E. coli O157, a bacterium that lives in cattle (and other ruminant – dp) intestines, ended up in a product that seems so unlikely to contain it. The risk usually associated with cookie dough is salmonella, a bacterium that can be found in raw eggs. None of the ingredients in the dough -- eggs, milk, flour, chocolate, butter -- is known to host E. coli O157.
Federal investigators spent more than a week at the Danville plant and did not detect contamination in the equipment or among workers, Acheson said. "It raises the likelihood that it was an ingredient," he said. "And it really means that industry has to be constantly vigilant, because foods we think of as low risk could be contaminated with a deadly pathogen."
William Marler, a food safety lawyer in Seattle who is representing 23 of the victims, said the laboratory results that confirm contamination boost the legal claims. "But it doesn't help you figure out how the E. coli got into the cookie dough," he said.