Ten million pounds of frozen pizza and other snacks have been recalled due to contamination with a rare strain of E. coli, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Buffalo, N.Y.-based Rich Products Corp. is recalling all items produced by at its Waycross, Ga. plant with "Best By" dates ranging from Jan. 1, 2013 to Sept. 29, 2014. The recalled products, which were distributed nationwide, include the brands Farm Rich, Schwan's and Market Day, and food items such as Stuffed Crust Pizza Dippers, Mozzarella Bites, Philly Cheese Steaks, Mini Quesadillas, Mini Meatball Sandwiches and Mini Bacon Cheeseburgers. (Many of these products are popular with kids, who are particularly vulnerable to E. coli infection.) Click here for the full list.
So far the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported 24 cases of E. coli 0121-related illnesses in 15 states related to the recall. Seven people have been hospitalized.
Bill Gisel, Rich's president and CEO, said the company will continue to cooperate fully with federal, state and local agencies investigating the situation. According to the FDA, Rich has notified all of its distributors and customers who have received the product in question and has directed them to remove and destroy it. However, as of Friday, 3 million pound of the products remained in the marketplace, NBC News reported.
The E. coli strain is among a potentially lethal group of bacteria known as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or STECs. The bacteria, which include E. coli O157 (usually tied to outbreaks in hamburger), create poisons in the body that can lead to severe illness and even death.
In 2011, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials banned E. coli O121 and five other strains from the U.S. beef supply. This outbreak is the first time Food Safety and Inspection Service officials have recalled products possibly tainted with E. coli O121.
In fact, the strain involved in the Rich Foods outbreak is so rare, its genetic fingerprint has been seen less than 30 times in PulseNet, the CDC's network of laboratories that track bacteria involved in foodborne illness, according to NBC.
The New York state Department of Health identified the outbreak strain of E. coli O121 in an opened package of Farm Rich brand frozen mini chicken and cheese quesadillas from an ill person's home, the CDC said.
People usually become sick from eating food containing E. coli within two to eight days.
Customers who have purchased the products and have any questions can call Rich Consumer Relations at (888) 220-5955, 24/7, or visit the company website (which, to Rich's credit, announces the recall on its homepage).
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