A Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157 outbreak associated with consumption of rice cakes in 2011 in Japan

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In May 2011, an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157 was reported from Yamagata Prefecture, Japan. Investigations, including a case-control study, revealed that the outbreak was linked to two varieties of rice cakes produced by a local manufacturer between 2 and 7 May. Active and passive surveillance identified 136 suspected cases, 142 confirmed cases, 26 asymptomatic cases, and 25 secondary cases. While no environmental samples taken from the manufacturing premises tested positive for STEC, other than a stool sample taken from one employee, on-site and epidemiological investigations indicated that STEC was introduced during the manufacturing process of rice cakes rather than through contamination of raw materials. This was the first reported outbreak of STEC associated with cakes and confectionery in Japan, which indicates that contamination and outbreaks of STEC can occur in any food unless proper precautions are taken.

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