At least 69 people in 29 states have suffered from E. coli food poisoning after consuming Nestle Toll House cookie dough raw. If the genetic print of the E. coli found in samples made at the factory matches that of the strain detected in people who have fallen ill across the country, it will confirm that the plant and the cookie dough are the source of the E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak.
All forms of prepackaged and refrigerated Nestle Toll House raw cookie dough were recalled on June 19 after health officials from the FDA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that there was a strong association between the products and the outbreak.
E. coli 0157:H7 food poisoning can cause bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Most people recover in about a week, but some are more susceptible to severe infections. Children under the age of five and the elderly are the most likely to suffer from more severe infections.
Of those who have fallen ill from the Nestle cookie dough, about half have been hospitalized and at least nine developed a severe complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a form of kidney failure.
Nestle said in a recent statement that the E. coli 0157: H7 sample found by FDA investigators was in a 16-ounce Toll House refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough bar that was labeled “best before June 10 2009.” However, health agencies are still trying to determine how the cookie dough got contaminated.
Although the FDA and CDC indicate that Nestle has cooperated fully in their investigation following the outbreak, some recent reports suggest that they were less than forthcoming with information before the problems were discovered. In recent years, Nestle has denied federal regulators access to certain records, including pest control and environmental documents, and did not allow FDA investigators to take pictures inside their factory. Both Nestle officials and the FDA have said that such restrictions were within their rights at the time.
Since the recall, at least two food poisoning lawsuits have been filed against Nestle USA, both involving young girls who became sick after eating raw cookie dough. Days after the recall, the first cookie dough lawsuit was filed on behalf of 18-year-old Jillian Collins in California. Collins was hospitalized for seven days after falling ill last month with severe abdominal pain, diarrhea and nausea after eating cookie dough.
This week, a second lawsuit was filed on behalf of six-year-old Madison Sedbrook from Denver, Co. The young girl allegedly consumed raw cookie dough several times, even as she suffered fatigue, nausea and flu-like symptoms. Eventually she was admitted to pediatric intensive care with severe abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea. Sedbrook was diagnosed with HUS caused by E. coli and had almost reached the point of kidney failure.
Packaging on all raw cookie dough products contains indication that it is not intended for consumption before cooking. However, the practice is very common and the CDC has warned against people attempting to cook the recalled cookie dough, as they may spread the E. coli and become infected during the preparation process.