E. coli outbreak linked to Pizza Ranch

Chipotle isn't the only large chain reporting food-safety issues. Brittany Behm, a spokeswoman for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Des Moines Register that 13 people were sickened from E. coli food poisonings found in desserts served at Pizza Ranch restaurants. The Orange City, Iowa-based chain has 190 restaurants in 13 states, but the illnesses occurred in only nine states, including Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Minnesota, which had five cases, was the only state with more than one, the report stated.

Two children, in Kansas and Nebraska, suffered kidney failure and had to be hospitalized. They have since recovered, the report stated. None of the patients died.

National food safety law firm PritzkerOlsen P.A. is representing the family of a 7-year-old Kansas girl, who was sickened in a public outbreak of toxic E. coli 0157 from a Pizza Ranch restaurant in Kansas, according to a press release from the law firm.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the outbreak occurred between Dec. 6 and Feb. 9. Eight people were hospitalized nationally but there were no deaths. The Star Tribune also reported that the strain of the bacteria that sickened the customers is E. coli 0157:H7. Three of the five people in Minnesota who contracted E. coli were hospitalized but all recovered, the report stated.

Behm told the Star Tribune that nine of the 12 victims interviewed by health authorities said they had eaten items made from "skillet dough mix." Pizza Ranch has discontinued the use of the dough mix, according to Pizza Ranch Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Achterhoff, who confirmed the illnesses stating in an email to PizzaMarketplace.com that nine of the affected individuals reported having eaten at nine different Pizza Ranches in seven states, but that there are also individuals multiple states away from the nearest Pizza Ranch that reported not eating at Pizza Ranch that have the same strain of E. Coli O157. Health investigators have not been able to pinpoint how they contracted the strain. 

Laboratory tests of the dough were negative for E. coli O157, the Star Tribune reported.

"The last reported illness related to this outbreak reported eating at one of our locations on January 30, 2016," Achterhoff said. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has told us that it believes the outbreak is concluded," said Achterhoff , who pointed out that the fact pattern shows that the source of bacteria originated from an outside supplier rather than at Pizza Ranch restaurants.

Achterhoff also said that several states collected products from Pizza Ranch restaurant locations to test for the presence of E. Coli O157 though it was not found in any products tested,

"Pizza Ranch independently ran over 40 tests on different products to test for the presence of E. Coli O157, and it was not found in any products tested," he said. "We provided public health investigators with a list of all of our ingredients as well as contact information for our ingredient suppliers. We also contacted the supplier of our dough mixes regarding this issue with the request that they cooperate with state and federal health officials. Pizza Ranch has also ceased using this outside supplier to supply its dough mix."

All Pizza Ranch locations were instructed to complete a special, precautionary cleaning of all surfaces and equipment used in dough preparation or service, according to Achterhof, who said all its franchisees and their team members responded with professionalism and great attention to detail.

"As a result, we continue to have absolute confidence in the quality and wholesomeness of every item we serve," he said.

All Pizza Ranch locations are open and serving their full menu.

"We have no higher commitment than the safety of our guests and our people," Achterhof added. "We will continue to work with public health officials at the local, state and federal levels on this issue and on a daily basis to fulfill that promise."


Topics: Food & Beverage, Food Safety

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