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Feds link 7 cases of E. coli across 3 states to hazelnuts

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • In-shell hazelnuts from California firm linked to seven cases of E. coli, the FDA says
  • The CDC says there is Michigan case and three each in Minnesota and Wisconsin
  • Three people hospitalized, but there have been no deaths, the CDC says

(CNN) -- A California company has recalled hazelnuts sold in bulk, individual containers and as part of mixed-nut packages sold throughout the United States and Canada due to possible E. coli contamination, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced.

Products containing in-shell hazelnuts from DeFranco and Sons have been linked to seven cases of E. coli-related illnesses in three states, the federal agency said Saturday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that one person was affected by the E. coli O157:H7 strain in Michigan and three apiece in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The sick -- six men and a woman -- ranged in age from 15 to 78, and fell ill between December 20 and January 28.

Three of those who had suspected E. coli were hospitalized, though no one has died because of it, according to the CDC.

As a result, the Los Angeles-based company issued a voluntary recall for a host of products sold retail, and issued a caution for hazelnuts that might have been repackaged from bulk shipments.

The hazelnuts involved in the recall were distributed between November 2 and December 22 after which they were sold in one-pound packages, in open bins in grocery stores or as part of two-pound or four-pound packages of mixed nuts, according to an FDA statement. It is possible, too, that in-shell hazelnuts that were once part of 50-pound packages from DeFranco and Sons were divvied up in some other way and sold.

DeFranco got the nuts from outside suppliers and growers before packaging them. Some of them involved in the recall, due to the potential E. coli contamination, were mixed and packaged with other nuts during the production and distribution process.

Where E. coli lurks

Five different items -- involving large hazelnuts and mixed nuts in one-pound packages, two-pound mixed nuts packages as well as 50-pound "imperial" and "supreme" mixed nuts packages -- carry the Sunripe brand. These one-pound and two-pound containers have a June 30 sell-by date as does a four-pound mixed nuts package sold as a "season's greetings" gift pack.

According to the FDA statement, the agency became aware of the possible bacteria contamination in late February. The FDA said it was "actively working" with the CDC and public health agencies in the three states where E. coli cases have been noted as well as in California, where DeFranco and Sons is based.

E. coli can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and in severe cases, kidney failure. Babies, seniors and people with weak immune systems are the most susceptible.

Those with questions about this recall can call DeFranco and Sons at 1-800-992-3992 between 2 and 4 p.m. PT Mondays-Fridays, the company said. The FDA also fields calls about nut safety at 1-888-SAFEFOOD.