Blog: Dean BestGeneral Mills linked to US E. coli outbreak

Dean Best | 2 June 2016

Flour produced by General Mills at a plant in the US is the likely source of an E. coli outbreak that made people ill across 20 states, food safety officials have announced.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a facility in Kansas City was probably behind an outbreak of E. coli O121 that has sickened 38 people.

"Collaborative investigative efforts indicate that flour produced at the General Mills facility in Kansas City, Missouri is a likely source of this outbreak," the CDC said. "Preliminary results of this investigation indicate an association between STEC O121 infection and someone in the household using Gold Medal brand flour to make something to eat."

In interviews, 16 of 21 people reported they or someone in their household used flour in the week before they became ill. Nine of 22 people said they had eaten or tasted raw homemade dough or batter. Twelve of 22 people reported using Gold Medal brand flour. A further three of those who became ill reported eating or playing with raw dough at restaurants.

Regulatory officials have indicated the flour used by ill people or used in restaurant locations was produced in the same week in November 2015 at the General Mills facility in Kansas City, Missouri. General Mills produces Gold Medal brand flour.

On Tuesday, General Mills recalled a batch of flour products due to possible contamination. The products are sold under its Gold Medal and Gold Medal Wondra brands, as well as SKUs sold under the Signature Kitchens own label, which is marketed by the retailer Albertsons.

The company said the outbreak strain had not been found in its flour products or in the manufacturing facility.

General Mills sought to remind consumers not to eat any raw products made with flour and to wash their hands, work surfaces, and utensils after contact with raw dough products or flour.

“As a leading provider of flour for 150 years, we felt it was important to not only recall the product and replace it for consumers if there was any doubt, but also to take this opportunity to remind our consumers how to safely handle flour,” Liz Nordlie, president of General Mills' baking division, said.

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