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Cookie Dough E. Coli Remains Mystery

July 10, 2009

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration announced that the strain of E. coli found in Nestle’s raw cookie dough at its USA manufacturing plant does not match the strain that has been linked to a 30-state outbreak, and they are not sure yet how the dough was contaminated.

The CDC and FDA have been investigating whether the cookie dough was the source of the E. coli outbreak that has left 69 people in about 30 states sick.

E. coli is a bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and kidney failure.

Nestle voluntarily recalled its Toll House refrigerated cookie dough products that were made at its Danville, Va. factory last month, after the FDA told Nestle it suspected consumers might have been exposed to the bacteria through eating the dough raw.

The FDA confirmed evidence of E. coli O157:H7 on June 29 in a sample production of 16.5 oz. Nestle Toll House refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough bar.  But on Thursday, Mike Herndon, FDA spokesman, said test on the dough show the strains of E. coli do not match the E. coli strain linked to the outbreak.

This could mean that the dough could have been contaminated from multiple strands of the bacteria. 

Neither the FDA nor Nestle has yet discovered a probable source.

The FDA is working with Nestle on the investigation, which Herndon said was ongoing.

According to Nestle, over 1,000 tests have been performed at the Danville facility, with the company dismantling its production lines for thorough inspection, testing equipment and ingredients, and reviewing its quality and food safety procedures.

Image Caption: Low-temperature electron micrograph of a cluster of E. coli bacteria, magnified 10,000 times. Each individual bacterium is oblong shaped. Photo by Eric Erbe, digital colorization by Christopher Pooley, both of USDA, ARS, EMU.

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