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FDA Can’t Confirm E. Coli in Celery Linked to Outbreak

FDA Can’t Confirm E. Coli in Celery Linked to Outbreak

December 8, 2015 — The FDA was unable to confirm the presence of E. coli in a sample of Costco rotisserie chicken salad that tested positive in a preliminary analysis by the Montana Department of Health.

The salad contained a celery and onion diced blend made by Taylor Farms Pacific Inc., which was recalled on November 26, along with 71 products containing the blend.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said it could not rule out the blend as the source of the outbreak.

The recalls were issued after the Montana Public Health Laboratory confirmed five positive E. coli tests on one sample of celery and onion mix collected at a Costco in Montana. Investigators ran a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis, which can rapidly screen for the presence of E. coli DNA in a sample.

The FDA was given part of the sample to confirm the presence of E. coli by culturing a living colony of the bacteria. The confirmatory test was negative for E. coli, which the FDA said could happen for several reasons:

“Other bacteria that may be present in the sample can interfere with the growth and isolation of the bacteria in question, or the bacteria in question may be in very low numbers and hard to isolate or perhaps have died off by the time confirmation testing was done.”

At least 19 people have been infected with E. coli O157:H7 in California, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. Five victims were hospitalized and two developed a life-threatening kidney complication known as Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). No illnesses have been reported since November 23, according to the CDC.

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