E. coli 0157 has been linked to Nestlé's refrigerated cookie dough and scientists are trying to figure out how the bacteria could have ended up in a product that seems unlikely to contain it. Nestlé USA Vice President Laurie MacDonald says the company recalled all its refrigerated cookie dough products, about 300,000 cases, within 24 hours of being notified of the suspected problem by FDA. They also suspended operations at the plant that makes the dough. It is important to note that investigators haven't confirmed the presence of the bacteria in any Nestlé product at this time.
The outbreak, which comes as the government is trying to reform the nation's food safety system, has made at least 65 people in 29 states sick. According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than two-thirds of the victims are under the age of 19. The appearance of E. coli 0157 in cookie dough is unusual so investigators are looking at all possible factors, analyzing ingredients, the plant's equipment, the health of workers and whether the facility is located near cattle. Officials are also considering the possibility that the dough may have been contaminated intentionally.
According to Assistant Commissioner for Food Safety at FDA David Acheson Nestlé has a good reputation within the food industry for manufacturing practices designed to prevent contamination and has cooperated fully with the investigation.