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Gibson Farms Linked to Walnut E. coli Outbreak

Posted in E. coli,Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls on May 1, 2024

Gibson Farms linked to walnut E. coli outbreak. E. coli in walnuts?

Gibson Farms issued a recall for their Organic Light Halves and Pieces shelled walnuts after receiving notification from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that 12 cases of E. coli infections are potentially linked to the consumption of organic halves and pieces shelled walnuts.

The recall, indicated on April 26, 2024, and announced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on April 30, 2024 is due to the potential presence of E. coli O157:H7.

Here’s what we know.

The Outbreak

The CDC has been investigating an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak since April 17, 2024. However, no source had been identified. There were initially nine cases linked to the outbreak, with an additional three cases added the following week. This brings the total case count to 12.

The current status of this outbreak is at “FDA Traceback Initiated.” However, it will likely soon change to “Recall Initiated” as more information becomes available. It appears that the outbreak is linked to walnuts.

The Recall

In response to the walnut E. coli outbreak investigation, Gibson Farms, Inc. has issued a voluntary recall for their Organic Light Halves and Pieces shelled walnuts.

These products were sold to distributors in California as bulk boxes of 25 lb. quantities.

Products can be identified by lot number 3325-043 (expiration date: 5/21/25) & 3341-501 (expiration date: 6/7/25)

Gibson Farm Organic Light Halves and Pieces shelled walnuts:

Lot: 3325-043     Expiration date: 5/21/25

Lot: 3341-501     Expiration date: 6/7/25

Complications With Bulk Products

This walnut E. coli outbreak potentially linked to Gibson Farms is further complicated as it is sold as a bulk product. These walnuts are often stored or displayed in bulk bins, creating additional exposure and cross-contamination opportunities.

Gibson Farms has requested all buyers to hold and discontinue selling the existing stock of the recalled lots and return remaining inventory to their local warehouse. If additional distribution has occurred, this notification should be relayed to those third-parties.

The complete list of recalled products can be found here.

Containers and bins may be contaminated. Not all retailers clean and sanitize bulk bins between shipments. In this case, retailers are instructed to discard the contents of the bins and should clean and sanitize them before refilling them.

For retailers that do not know the exact brand or lot code of walnut halves and pieces in stock, products should be held, and bins should be sanitized. Contact your supplier to get specific lot information to determine if the walnuts in your store are part of the recall.

What is E. coli?

Escherichia coli, also known as E. coli, is a type of bacteria typically found in the digestive tract of people and animals. While most E. coli bacteria are harmless, some can cause serious illness.

The type of E. coli involved in the walnut E. coli outbreak is a strain known as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 or STEC O157. An estimated 265,000 cases of STEC infections occur in the United States each year. STEC O157 accounts for about 36% of them.

Like most foodborne illnesses, not all STEC infections are diagnosed. So, these statistics are likely an understatement.

Why is STEC So Dangerous?

STEC is one of the most dangerous types of E. coli bacteria. These bacteria produce a toxin, known as Shiga toxin. These toxins not only make the infected person very sick, but also lead to additional potential complications.

Who Is at Risk?

Anyone can become sick with E. coli infections; however certain groups of people are more likely to become sick. For example, the very young and the elderly are more likely to become sick, experience serious illness, and potentially develop a serious complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS.

What are the Symptoms?

E. coli symptoms can vary in severity from person to person, however most people with STEC will experience severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. While not common, if a fever is present, it is usually not very high (less than (101 °F).

In most cases, people begin to feel better within a week (5 to 7 days). Many infections are mild. However, others can be severe or even life-threatening.

Around 5 to 10 % of those diagnosed with STEC infections (usually children or the elderly), will develop a type of kidney complication, HUS.

The Dangers of HUS

HUS is a type of kidney failure that develops when the toxins produced by E. coli, or other toxin-producing bacteria, break down blood cells. These blood cells block the filtering activities in the kidneys. People with HUS need to be hospitalized right away.

HUS symptoms include:

  • Decreased frequency of urination
  • Feeling very tired
  • Paleness in cheeks and inside lower eyelids.

While most people with HUS may recover within a few weeks, others may suffer permanent damage. Some cases of HUS are fatal.

How is E. coli Treated?

In most cases, no specific treatment is needed to recover from E. coli or STEC infections. Supportive therapy, such as keeping hydrated and monitoring fever is important.

Antibiotics are usually not given to treat this infection unless the infection is severe, or the patient is at high risk of complications. In fact, some studies show that antibiotic treatment for STEC infections may increase the risk of developing HUS.

Diarrhea is never fun. It can even contribute to dehydration. However, antidiarrheal agents like Imodium® may increase the risk of severe illness. Slowing the digestive tract can allow the bacteria to increase in numbers. It is best to wait out the symptoms and try to stay hydrated and as comfortable as possible.

Have You Become Sick from this Walnut E. coli Outbreak and Need Help?

Have you become sick from this walnut E. coli outbreak potentially linked to Gibson Farms and need help?

First, seek medical help if symptoms are severe.

Even if symptoms are not severe, it is a good idea to report your illness to your local health department. The more investigators know about a foodborne outbreak, the better prepared they can be to find a source.

Contact an E. coli Lawyer. If you have become sick at the negligence of others, you may benefit from legal representation. The experienced E. coli Lawyers at The Lange Law Firm, PLLC can go over the details of your situation to determine if you have a case. These talented lawyers have helped so many families with cases just like yours.

Call (833) 330-3663 or click here for a free consultation.

By: Heather Van Tassell (contributing writer, non-lawyer)