(CNN) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that 24 cases of E. coli O121 have been reported across 15 states, with at least one linked to the consumption of Farm Rich brand frozen meals and snacks. One third of the cases have required hospitalization and no deaths have occurred.
Illness related to this outbreak's strain have been reported in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. 78% of those sickened are under the age of 22.
Rich Products Corporation recalled approximately 196,222 pounds of Farm Rich Mini Quesadillas, Philly Cheese Steaks, Mini Pizza Slices and Mozzarella Bites produced from November 12-19, 2012 after being informed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture of potential contamination of these products.
The New York State Department of Health identified the strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121 (STEC) in an open package of frozen chicken quesadillas from an ill person's home. Some types of STEC cause severe disease, including bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps and kidney failure.
The CDC is working with state officials to interview infected people about foods they had eaten prior to their illness. All 18 ill people officials spoke with reported consuming frozen food products; eight reported consuming Farm Rich brand frozen food products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service and U.S. Food and Drug Administration are also currently conducting investigations to determine the source of outbreak.
Consumers with questions regarding the recall should contact the company at 1-888-220-5955 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday or via the website's contact form. Any affected product should be discarded, rather than returned to the grocery store, and Farm Rich will issue a refund or replacement.
Consumers with food safety question are encouraged to contact "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 am to 4 pm ET Monday through Friday.
- Fast facts on E. coli
According to the FSIS, E. coli is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness. Symptoms can occur up to 10 days after exposure to the infected food.
The CDC reports that sickness from Shiga toxin-producing E. coli usually occurs 2-8 days after swallowing the organism. Symptoms of kidney failure related to STEC can include fever, abdominal pain, pale skin tone, fatigue and irritability, small, unexplained bruises or bleeding from the nose and mouth and decreased urination.