US health officials are warning people not to eat raw cake batter as they investigate a multistate outbreak of E. coli linked to cake mix.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that as of July 27, 16 people in 12 states have been reported to have been infected with the same strain of the E. coli bacteria. They range in age from 2 to 73-years-old and 75% of them are children under 18, the CDC said.
As a result, seven people had to be hospitalized, including one who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.
The illnesses started between February 26, 2021, to June 21, 2021, the agency said in an investigation notice posted on its website.
Six of the eight people who had been interviewed by state and local health officials, at last report, said they had eaten or tasted cake batter made from a cake mix, the CDC said.
FDA is conducting a traceback investigation using purchase records from locations where sick people bought cake mix to try to determine a common cake mix brand or production facility. The consumers impacted reported buying different varieties and brands of cake mix.
CDC PulseNet manages a national database of DNA fingerprints of bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. DNA fingerprinting is performed on bacteria using a method called whole genome sequencing (WGS). WGS showed that bacteria from sick people’s samples are closely related genetically. This means that people in this outbreak likely got sick from the same food.
The number of people sickened is likely much higher, the notice said, because many people recover without medical treatment and are never tested for E. coli.
It also takes three to four weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak, the CDC said.
E. coli can cause diarrhea, severe stomach cramps, vomiting and other symptoms and is spread by ingesting food or water contaminated by human or animal waste or through contact with people or animals.
The CDC recommends people not to eat raw cake batter and other doughs, whether they came from a mix or were made from scratch, because flour and other ingredients can contain harmful bacteria that are only killed during the cooking process.