Five-State E. Coli Outbreak Traced to Soy Nut Butter

CHICAGO (CN) — Parents claim in court that an Illinois-based peanut-free food producer made soy nut butter tainted with lethal pathogens that left their 8-year-old son with an incurable kidney condition, and poisoned 11 other people.

Mosby and Erin Simmons, of Santa Clara, California, sued Glenview-based SoyNut Butter Co. on Monday in Federal Court. Glenview is a North Shore suburb of Chicago.

The Simmons say The Soy Nut Company’s I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter poisoned 12 people in five states with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria. Shiga, or shigella, poisoning also is known as dysentery.

The five states involved are Arizona, California, Oregon, Maryland and New Jersey according to the complaint, which cites Centers for Disease Control statistics as of March 2. The victims’ symptoms began from Jan. 5 to Feb. 15; no one has died, but six people were hospitalized and four people, including their son, developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a life-threatening form of kidney failure. Eleven of the victims were children.

The Simmons say their son ate the soy nut butter at home for days before suffering abdominal pain. Five days later he was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose where he was diagnosed with E. coli O157:H7 infection.

His health plummeted and doctors transferred him to a children’s hospital in Palo Alto.

“While at Lucille Packard Stanford Children’s Hospital he was diagnosed with E.coli O157:H7 infection and was treated with dialysis and blood transfusions for life-threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome,” the complaint states.

The Simmons seek damages for strict product liability, negligence and breach of warranty. They say the soy nut butter was produced in an unsanitary facility.

E. coli O157:H7 toxins mutate at a fast pace, are easily transmitted from one person to another and can survive in extreme temperatures and acidic environments. The toxins attach to the wall of a host’s bowel, where they enter blood vessels and form blood clots.

Officials from the CDC and Good and Drug Administration interviewed nine of the 12 victims and discovered they consumed the soy nut butter at home and in childcare facilities.

“The epidemiologic evidence available to investigators at this time indicates that I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter is a likely source of the outbreak,” health officials said in a statement.

The SoyNut Butter Co. has recalled its I.M. Healthy Original Creamy SoyNut Butter with the best-by date of 8-30-18 or 8-31-18.

“The voluntary recall is in response to the FDA alerting us of a possible link between our product and illnesses regarding E. coli,” the company said in a statement.

The Simmons are represented by Gary Newland with Newland & Newland in Arlington Heights.

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