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E. coli outbreak linked to Pizza Ranch

Iowa-based chain stopped using dough thought to have been eaten by most of the sick people

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Thirteen people, including one Iowan, have been sickened in a nine-state E. coli outbreak linked to Pizza Ranch, a chain based in Orange City.

The Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or 0157, was identified in 13 people from Dec. 4 through Feb. 9. Eight people were hospitalized, including two children, one in Kansas and one in Nebraska, who developed kidney failure because of the bacterial infection, said Brittany Behm, spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Based on interview data, it seems like there was a problem with the Skillet Dough,” Behm said, adding that the dough had been used in Pizza Ranch dessert items.

The restaurant chain voluntarily stopped using the dough and no one has gotten sick since, Behm said.

“Since late January, we have been assisting public health officials who are investigating 13 cases of illness attributed to a specific strain of E. Coli O157 bacteria, said Ryan Achterhoff, Pizza Ranch chief administrative officer, in a prepared statement.

“We removed our Skillet Dough mix immediately from use in response to information suggesting that this product was a possible common factor in the illnesses and subsequently expanded this product withdrawal to include our Original Dough mix.”

Pizza Ranch ran more than 40 tests on different products to test for E. coli 0157 and did not find it in any products, Achterhoff said. The chain instructed all restaurants to clean all surfaces and equipment used for dough preparation and service and is no longer working with the vendor who provided the dough.

The Iowa Department of Public Health also ran tests of products and did not find E. coli, said State Epidemiologist Patricia Quinlisk.

The outbreak was detected Jan. 4 and since the chain took quick action, the CDC did not post an outbreak notice, Behm said.

“This outbreak is over,” she said.

One person each was sickened in Iowa, Illinois, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Kansas. Minnesota had five E. coli cases linked to this outbreak, Behm said.

She did not know at which restaurant location the Iowa resident who got sick had eaten.

Heidi Peck, environmental quality branch supervisor for the Linn County Department of Public Health, said there have been no reported E. coli cases locally.

Pizza Ranch, founded in Hull in 1981, has more than 190 locations in Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.

E. coli is an intestinal infection that causes diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever. More severe cases can lead to dehydration or kidney failure. People with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, young children, and older adults are at increased risk for developing complications.

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