Produce resellers in Oregon have recalled strawberries because of possible E. coli contamination while state officials await definitive test results that could confirm that deer in growing fields are responsible for spreading the pathogen.
Ron Spada Farms and The Growers Outlet, both in Portland, Ore., issued voluntary recalls Aug. 12 of strawberries they bought from Jaquith Strawberry Farm in Newberg, Ore. The berries are linked to a deadly outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that sickened 14 people from July 10-29. One elderly woman in Washington County died from kidney failure related to the E. coli infection.
Senior epidemiologist William Keene at the Oregon Division of Public Health said Aug. 12 that about 10% of the 111 samples taken at the Jaquith Strawberry Farm came back positive for E. coli, but more definitive tests were in progress to determine whether it was the same strain that caused the illnesses and death.
As of 2:30 p.m. Pacific time Aug. 15 those test results still were not available and state officials were still urging caution.
Staff from the Oregon Agriculture Department and Division of Public Health have said that none of the berries remains for sale anywhere. However, people could have bought them and frozen them or used them to make freezer jam. The uncooked strawberries could still be contaminated and should be discarded, according to officials.
The Growers Outlet did not specify how many strawberries it was recalling, but in a recall news release the company said anyone who bought strawberries from them between June 11 and July 23 should throw out the fruit.
Ron Spada Farms’ recall notice states that 4,800 flats of the berries from Jaquith are being recalled. They were resold between June 11 and Aug. 1.
Jan Brendler, manager of the Growers Outlet, said that the Jaquith farm is a regular supplier, along with a number of other growers. She said no illnesses have been reported by consumers who bought strawberries from The Growers Outlet or the vendors the company resold them to.
The Oregon Agriculture Department is maintaining a list of vendors who bought strawberries from Jaquith and resold them online at http://tinyurl.com/strawberry-vendors. The list is being updated daily and as of Aug. 15 it included 35 vendors and 53 locations where the potentially contaminated berries were sold in Northwest Oregon.