On March 2, 2017, the Illinois-based SoyNut Butter Company recalled its I.M. Healthy Original Creamy SoyNut Butter after the FDA alerted it to “a possible link between our product and illnesses regarding E. coli.” After speculation of the source of confirmed E. Coli cases linked as an outbreak cluster, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene confirmed that its E. Coli victim ate I.M. Healthy soy nut butter prior to their illness.
The SoyNut Butter Company
From its home base in Glenview, Illinois, the SoyNut Butter Company sells its products from coast to coast. One of the company’s most prominent products is its SoyNut Butter. SoyNut Butter is a peanut butter-alternative intended for “individuals and institutions concerned with food allergies.” The company recommends its SoyNut Butter to people with allergies to peanuts, gluten, dairy, eggs, and tree nuts.
According to the company, its SoyNut Butter is used “nationwide in thousands of pre-school facilities, Head Start programs, camps and schools – and kids love it!”
In addition to being sold online through Amazon.com and Nutricity.com, SoyNut Butter is sold at these grocery stores: Albertsons; A&P; Bashas’; CA$H WISE FOODS; Coborn’s; Copps; Cosentino’s Fine Foods Market; Cub Foods; D&W Fresh Market; Delhaize; Demoulas; Dillons Food Stores; Family Fare Supermarkets; Felpausch; festival foods; Fiesta; Food Lion; Fred Meyer; Fry’s Food Stores; Giant; Giant Eagle; Hannaford; Harris Teeter; H-E-B; H-E-B’s Central Market; Henhouse; Hornbacher’s; Hyvee; Ingles; Jewel; King Soopers; Kowaski’s Markets; Kroger; Lowes Foods; Lucky Supermarkets; Lunds; Byerly’s; Marianos; Martin’s; Meijer; Minyard Food Stores; No Frills Supermarkets; Pick’n’Save; Price Chopper; Publix; Raley’s; Ralphs; Randalls’ Rice Epicurean Markets; Russ’s Market; Safeway; Savemart Supermarkets; Shaws; Shop Rite; Shop ‘n Save; Smith’s Food & Drug Stores; Stop & Shop; SuperOne Foods; SuperValu; Target; Tom Thumb; Tops; Vons; Wegmans; Whole Foods; and Winn Dixie. SoyNut Butter is also sold at these health foods stores: Earthlight Natural Foods; Fiddleheads; Fresh Madison Market; and New Vitality Health Foods, Inc.
The company says that its SoyNut Butter is served to “over 2 million children a month.”
Initially, the company’s representative Marsha dissuaded the media from including the company in the outbreak. She stated that the CDC and other agencies had not contacted the company to inform them of any potential link of the E. Coli cases to their products. Marsha stated “We would be the first to know if there was a problem. The CDC would call us first.”
By that evening, the company initiated the recall on social media. Their post on Facebook states:
“The SoyNut Butter Co. has announced a voluntary recall of our of I.M. Healthy Original Creamy SoyNut Butter with the Best By date of 08-30-18 or 08-31-18. The voluntary recall is in response to the FDA alerting us of a possible link between our product and illnesses regarding E.coli. While we are taking the necessary investigative steps in getting the product in question and the supply chain tested, we decided to issue the recall for the sake of food safety. We take our products integrity seriously and will update all our customers as we receive more information.
Consumers who have purchased I.M. Healthy Original Creamy SoyNut Butter should not consume the product. The recall does not effect any other I.M. Healthy products except for the I.M. Healthy Original Creamy with the Best By date of 08-30-18 or 08-31-18. For questions or concerns, please call our office at 800-288-1012.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (MDHMH), and other state health agencies are investigating a multistate outbreak of E. Coli O157 infections. The Maryland state health agency reports that, “These infections are closely related genetically, indicating a likely common source such as food.” The CDC released the following statement about the investigation collaboration, “This investigation is ongoing, and we will update the public when more information becomes available. CDC and state and local public health partners are continuing laboratory surveillance through PulseNet to identify additional ill people and to interview those people about foods they ate before they got sick.”
The agencies have utilized and will continue to search the national PulseNet system for other cases that may be similarly related or linked to the outbreak. The agencies have found that 10 E. Coli victims all have a similar strain of E. Coli O157. Only time will tell if more victims are found to be related to the cluster.
What is E. Coli O157?
E. Coli is a bacteria common to our bodies. Certain species or E. Coli live naturally in the human gastrointestinal tract. It also naturally lives in the gastrointestinal tract of animals, like cattle, goats, and chickens. E. Coli is often associated by consumers with beef. E. Coli can also contaminate legumes and vegetables if they have been exposed to feces contaminated fertilizers, polluted water, and are not properly processed afterwards. Outbreaks of E. Coli O157 have resulted from peanuts used to make peanut butter (like the soy butter in this case), spinach, lettuce, raw milk, unpasteurized juices, and radishes, to name a few.
Several types of E Coli, like E. Coli O157:H7, produce deadly toxins during an infection, which can cause severe complications. Once in the intestinal tract of a person, some forms of E. Coli bacteria release a harmful toxin, called a Shiga toxin. E. Coli O:157H7 is a Shiga toxin producing E. Coli (STEC), and one of the more dangerous foodborne pathogens found in the world. E. Coli symptoms show within 1 to 10 days of ingesting contaminated foods or drinks. A person can also become infected with E. Coli through contact with infected animals or other people.
Persons who have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome require intensive care, kidney dialysis, and transfusions. They may also need transplants. E. Coli O157:H7 is not the only type that is dangerous. Other Shiga toxin producing E. Coli, like E. Coli O26, can also have the same symptoms and complications.
The latency period can range anywhere from 1-9 days before the onset of symptoms. The symptoms of an E. Coli infection include: bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, and potentially, vomiting. Symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome usually show within a week and include: decreased urination, tea-colored urine, and pale skin.
Thus, it is imperative that people who suspect they may have contracted an E. Coli infection seek immediate medical attention. The sooner the E. Coli food poisoning is detected, the better chance medical providers have of preventing the patient from progressing to the hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) stage and potentially dying. HUS is a condition characterized by the sudden onset of gastrointestinal bleeding, anemia from the destruction of red blood cells, low blood platelet count (thrombocytopenia), bloody urine and, in the worst cases, acute kidney failure (uremia).
What Can I Do to Prevent E. Coli from Making My Family Sick?
The company and health agencies advise the public to immediately stop eating or using any soy nut butter-containing products from The SoyNut Butter Company. These products have a long shelf life and most are good until 2018, so they are most likely still in peoples’ homes. It is a good idea to check your pantry and home to see if you have any of the recalled products.
If you or someone you care for has ingested products from the SoyNut Butter Company and become ill, urgent medical attention is recommended.
You can also call our office for answers to your questions, to address any concerns, and to help you understand the legal process. You can reach us at (855) 969-5637.