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FDA Investigation Summary - Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O121 Illnesses Possibly Linked to Certain Farm Rich Products

Posted September 12, 2013 

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September 9, 2013

FDA Investigation Summary: Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O121 linked to Farm Rich Frozen Products from Rich Products Corporation

What was the Problem and What was Done?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA FSIS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local officials investigated a multi-state outbreak of E. coli O121 illnesses linked to certain Farm Rich and Market Day products manufactured by Rich Products Corporation located in Buffalo, New York.

According to the CDC final report disclaimer icon , a total of 35 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121 (E. Coli O121) were reported from 19 states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Illness onset dates ranged from December 30, 2012 to April 15, 2013. Among 29 persons for whom information was available, 9 (31%) were hospitalized. Two ill people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, and no deaths were reported.  Twenty-four (100%) of 24 ill persons interviewed reported consuming frozen food products. Thirteen (68%) of 19 ill persons reported consuming Farm Rich brand frozen food products.

The outbreak strain of E. coli O121 was isolated from two Farm Rich products. The New York State Department of Health collected and analyzed one frozen chicken quesadilla leftover product obtained from a consumer in New York who became ill, and the Texas State Department of Health collected and analyzed mini pizza slices leftover product obtained from a consumer in Texas who became ill.

On March 28, 2013, Rich Products Corporation of Buffalo, New York recalled Farm Rich® Mini Quesadillas, Farm Rich® Mini Pizza Slices, Farm Rich® Philly Cheese Steaks, Farm Rich® Mozzarella Bites and Market Day® Mozzarella Bites, produced from November 12, 2012 to November 19, 2012 due to possible contamination with Escherichia coli O121 bacteria. Then on April 4, 2013, Rich Products expanded the recall of certain Farm Rich® and Market Day® products to include all products produced at its Waycross, Georgia plant with “Best By” dates ranging from January 1, 2013 to September 29, 2014. 

The Georgia Department of Agriculture, USDA-FSIS and FDA conducted a joint inspection of the Rich Products Waycross, GA facility from 03/29/2013 to 04/04/2013. There were no FDA violations observed at the facility and no regulatory action was taken. Rich Products Corporation is not currently producing any USDA-regulated products at its Waycross, Georgia plant while the company continues to work with USDA-FSIS to develop a plan to make food safety improvements.

USDA-FSIS and FDA investigated suppliers of the common ingredients in the various types of Farm Rich brand frozen products consumed by ill persons, but the source of contamination was not identified.

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Additional Information for Consumers: 

This outbreak appears to be over. However, many of these products have a long shelf-life, and they may still be in peoples’ freezers. Consumers unaware of the recall could continue to eat these products and potentially get sick.

If consumers have recalled Farm Rich products packages, they should dispose of them.  Consumers can contact the Farm Rich consumer relations helpline disclaimer icon  for a refund or to request further information regarding the recalled products.

Consumers should always practice safe food handling and preparation measures. At home, wash hands, utensils, and surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after handling food; keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from fresh produce and other ready-to-eat foods; cook foods to the proper temperature; and refrigerate perishable foods promptly.   

E. coli is an important cause of human illness in the United States.  Consumers can find more information about E. coli and steps people can take to reduce their risk for infection at the following links:  Food Poisoning - E. coli disclaimer icon

CDC:  CDC E. coli homepage disclaimer icon 

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Additional Information for Industry:

The FDA provides guidance for good manufacturing practices and processed food safety to ensure the manufacturing quality of processed foods and address potential public health concerns related to the consumption of processed foods.

USDA-FSIS and the FDA have a Memorandum of Understanding for establishments and operations that are under the jurisdiction of both agencies. The MOU is intended to improve public health protection and food safety by facilitating informational exchanges and preventing duplication of efforts while still maintaining the responsibilities of each agency under their statutory authorities.

The information in this release reflects the FDA’s best efforts to communicate what it has learned from the manufacturer and the state and local public health agencies involved in the investigation. For more information: 


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