Skip to Main Content
Pilot Chemical

Are the Number of Food Contamination Outbreaks Increasing?

August 2, 2018

Over the past several months we have seen a whirlwind of food contamination outbreaks, from romaine lettuce contaminated with E. coli to Honey Smacks contaminated with Salmonella. This article will go into more detail regarding those, and other food contamination outbreaks.

The CDC estimates that each year 48 million (1 in 6) people get sick from a food-borne illness.  Of that 48 million, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 deaths occur.  Are the number of food contamination outbreaks increasing?

Outlined below are some of the food contamination outbreaks that have occurred in the last ninety days (March 15 – June 15, 2018).

  1. Romaine Lettuce from Yuma: The FDA and the CDC, along with state and local health officials, are investigating an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing  coli O157:H7 infections. There are 197 cases in 35 states. 89 people have been hospitalized including 26 people who have developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.  Five deaths have been reported in Arkansas (1), California (1), Minnesota (2), and New York (1).  Yuma, AZ is where most of the United States romaine lettuce is grown during the winter months. Multistate Outbreak of E.coli O157:H7 Infections Linked to Romaine Lettuce 
  2. Del Monte Vegetable Trays: The FDA, CDC, and state and local partners are currently investigating several Cyclospora illnesses associated with recalled Del Monte 6oz and 12oz vegetable trays containing broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and dill dip that were sold by Kwik Trip/Kwik Star locations in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Additionally, Del Monte is recalling “small veggie trays” which are 28oz and include broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery and dill dip that were distributed in Illinois and Indiana.  As of June 15, 2018, the CDC has reported 78 laboratory-confirmed cases of cyclosporiasis in persons from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan who reportedly consumed the vegetable trays. The ill parties in the two cases from Michigan reportedly purchased the vegetable tray in Wisconsin therefore Michigan is not impacted from this outbreak. FDA Investigates Multistate Outbreak of Cyclospora Illnesses Linked to Del Monte Vegetable Trays.
  3. Kellogg’s Honey Smacks: The CDC and FDA report that as of June 15, 2018, there are 73 people ill with this strain of Salmonella in 31 states. The ages of those that fell ill range in age from less than one year old to 87 years old with the median being 58 years.  Also, 65% of cases are female. Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Mbandaka Infections Linked to Kellogg’s Honey Smacks Cereal.
  4. Caito Foods Cut Melons: The FDA and the CDC, as well as state and local officials, are investigating a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella adelaide infections. Epidemiologic and preliminary trace back evidence indicates that pre-cut melon distributed by Caito Foods, LLC is a likely source of this outbreak.  Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Adelaide Infections Linked to Pre-Cut Melon.
  5. Rose Acre Farms Shell Eggs: The CDC reported that 45 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Braenderup were reported from 10 states.  Eleven people were hospitalized, and no deaths were reported. After learning that all who became ill ate eggs or egg dishes before the onset of illness, the FDA was able to trace back the source of some of the eggs to the Rose Acre Farms Hyde County farm. FDA investigators then inspected the farm and collected samples for testing. During inspection, FDA investigators observed objectionable conditions and practices which are summarized in an FDA report which cited the Rose Farm operators with various violations including unsanitary conditions.  FDA analysis of the samples revealed that the same rare strain of Salmonella Braenderup that caused the illnesses was present at the Hyde County Egg facility tying the facility to the outbreak.  The recall involved over 200 million eggs. FDA Investigated Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup Linked to Shell Eggs from Rose Acre Farms. 
  6. Natural Grocers Dried Coconut: The CDC reports a total of 14 people were infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella typhimurium, across eight states and the District of Columbia. Those that were ill ranged in age from 1 to 73 years with a median age of 38. Among those that were sickened, 62% were female. Three hospitalizations were reported. No deaths were reported. Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium Infections Linked to Dried Coconut
  7. Fareway and Triple T Chicken Salad: The CDC collaborated with public health and regulatory officials in several states and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to investigate a multistate outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium infections. A total of 265 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella typhimurium were reported from 8 states.  Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium Linked to Chicken Salad

Six out of the 7 recent outbreaks listed above were caused by bacteria (Salmonella and E. coli) and only one was caused by a parasitic (Cyclospora) protozoan.  The costs of these outbreaks are hard to quantify when you consider the human suffering, deaths, loss of income, medical expenses, and the corrective actions taken on the part of the supply chain for the foods involved in these outbreaks. In 1993, when one of the first cases of pathogenic E. coli O157:H7 infections occurred, Brianne Kiner was nine years old and became one of the first infected persons with this new strain of E. ColiAttorneys for Ms. Brianne Kiner were able to win an over $15 million dollar settlement on Ms. Kiner’s behalf.  Food Safety News. Mother of Jack in the Box Outbreak Victim Dies. 

Obviously, protecting the food supply from the farm to the table is no trivial matter.  Pilot Chemical can provide a few tools that serve to mitigate the risk of food contamination by pathogenic bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella.  These tools include the following:

  1. Broad range of disinfectant/sanitizers based on Maquat® quaternary ammonium compounds. The broad range of disinfectant sanitizer products provides a range of active ingredients, uses, dilutions but each of these products are effective against pathogenic bacteria known to cause foodborne ifoodborneHere are the recommended products: Maquat® 710-M, Maquat® MQ615-AS, Maquat® 5M – non-food contact Maquat® 710-HF (See accompanying chart HERE).
  2. Maguard® PAA can be used directly on meats, poultry and seafood to clean and sanitize these foods. Maguard® PAA has been cleared by FDA for this use.  Based on peracetic acid, Maguard® PAA has been found to be effective against a broad range of food pathogens.
  3. Maguard® 5626 is an EPA registered disinfectant/sanitizer based on peracetic acid. Maguard® 5626 can be used on a wide range of food contact surfaces and has been found to be effective against a broad range of food pathogens.
  4. Maquat® Sani-Floor is an EPA registered product that is intended to reduce the bacteria found on the floor of food processing and food service establishments. Maquat® Sani-Floor is based on Maquat MQ 615M/624M® and urea.  Maquat® Sani-Floor can be easily spread on the floor to keep floors sanitized, further reducing the risk of contamination.

Each of these EPA registered products are available for supplemental registration. These tools are fundamental for reducing the risk of contamination anywhere from farm to table.

Over the first half of 2018 there has been a steady stream of food contamination outbreaks. The toll that these outbreaks have on consumers and food suppliers (no matter where the supplier lies in the supply chain) is enormous. Consumers have been sickened, hospitalized and some have died, while suppliers of these contaminated foods have seen a large loss in revenue, loss in jobs, and tarnished reputations. These consumer and supplier dangers can be mitigated by the EPA Registered tools that Pilot offers.

To view Pilot’s EPA Registered tools, visit