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FDA FINDS E. COLI IN APPLE JUICE.

Byline: Yvette Cabrera Daily News Staff Writer

The Food and Drug Administration's chief, David Kessler, ended days of speculation Monday with the announcement that the FDA did indeed find traces of E. coli bacteria in a 16-ounce bottle of Odwalla apple juice with an ``enjoy by'' date of Oct. 24.

``We think that is very good news,'' said Odwalla's Chief Executive Officer Stephen Williamson. ``At this point in time, we had only been epidemiologically linked to this. Now this allows us to look through all of the records focusing on that specific production run.''

In a hurried move to reach consumers, Odwalla Inc. has launched a Web site to help spread information after a recent rash of intestinal illnesses in the Western United States was linked to its unpasteurized juice products.

At least 40 cases of consumers diagnosed with E. coli apparently linked to the Odwalla juice have been reported in Washington, Colorado and California combined, officials said. California health officials said there were 10 in this state.

There have been two cases reported in Los Angeles County of E. coli apparently linked to the Odwalla juice, involving an 18-month infant hospitalized Wednesday and a 22-month infant who is recovering at home without hospitalization, according to county health department officials.

On average, several cases of E. coli are reported per month in Los Angeles County. The two cases are the first related to commercial products since 1993, when a food poisoning outbreak in Washington was linked to Jack-in-the-Box hamburgers contaminated with E. coli, said Shirley Fannin, director of disease control for the county's Department of Health Services.

The announcement last week by the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health in Washington state of the E. coli-Odwalla link helped Los Angeles county officials to expeditiously solve their two cases, Fannin said.

``It helped us focus very rapidly on the probable cause on our cases,'' said Fannin, who reported the two infants are recovering with improvement.

Odwalla had been planning a Web site before the health problem developed but accelerated the program to spread information as quickly as possible.

``The Internet is a very efficient way to get information out,'' Williamson said. ``We accelerated its launch when we had this problem.''

On Wednesday, the Half Moon Bay-based Odwalla company announced it would voluntarily pull all its products containing apple juice from store shelves in seven western states and Canada.

The decision came after the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health in Washington reported that several people diagnosed with E. coli reported they had consumed Odwalla apple juice.

On Saturday, the recall was completed and included, as a precautionary measure, the company's carrot juice and vegetable cocktail, which are processed on the same assembly line in Central California as the apple products.

The most prominent symptoms of E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria are bloody diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration, but they could also include abdominal cramps. Typically slight or no fever is present.

A serious complication of E. coli, however, is hemolytic uremic syndrome, a condition in which sudden, rapid destruction of red blood cells causes acute kidney failure, Fannin said.

Odwalla, founded in Santa Cruz in 1980, produces its wide variety of specialty fruit and vegetable juices following standards that allow no juice concentrates, no artificial additives or preservatives.

The company said the source of the E. coli contamination most likely came from the fecal matter of cows or deer wandering through apple orchards.

The E. coli bacterium can cling to fallen apples, but because Odwalla doesn't accept fallen apples, the bacteria may have been transmitted secondhand by a picker, Odwalla officials said.

Odwalla's Web site, started four to six months earlier than anticipated, provides a list of the recalled products and includes a message from founder Greg Steltenpohl and Williamson expressing the company's concern for those afflicted with E. coli.

Odwalla's Internet site can be found at: www.enw.com/odwalla.

CAPTION(S):

Photo

Photo: (Color) Odwalla Inc. founder Greg A. Steltenpohl discusses the recall of the company's juice products triggered by possible E. coli contamination Monday in Denver.

Associated Press
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 5, 1996
Words:679
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