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I.M. Healthy Soy Nut Butter Recalled After 12 Sickened by E. Coli

An Illinois company has recalled batches of its soy nut butter after at least 12 people, mostly children, became ill from E. coli that may have contaminated the products, health officials said.

Six of the patients are sick enough to have been hospitalized, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement. Eleven of the 12 are under 18, CDC said.

A laboratory technician counts isolated Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria
A laboratory technician counts isolated Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria at the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency's micro biological laboratory in Sofia, Bulgaria, June 10, 2011. Oleg Popov / AP, file

Kids in five states — Arizona, California, Maryland, New Jersey and Oregon — are affected, the CDC said. At least some were made sick by soy-butter-coated granola bars served at a daycare center.

The E. coli strain involved can cause severe kidney damage and appears to have done so in four people, CDC said.

The SoyNut Butter Co., which makes the I.M. Healthy brand of soy nut butter, said it was recalling the product after the Food and Drug Administration alerted it to the E. coli cases.

"Epidemiologic evidence available at this time indicates that I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter is a likely source of this outbreak. SoyNut Butter is a nut-free substitute for peanut butter," the CDC said.

"CDC recommends that people not eat or serve these products," the agency said.

Related: Former Peanut Exec Gets 28 Years in Salmonella Outbreak

Image: SoyNut Butter
I.M Healthy SoyNut Butter SoyNut Butter, Co.

"Even if some of the SoyNut Butter or granola was eaten or served and no one got sick, throw the rest of the product away. Put it in a sealed bag in the trash so that children, pets, or other animals can't eat it."

It was not immediately clear how wide the recall was or whether other brands might be involved.

Food recalls are often traced to food processing centers, or to suppliers of raw or constituent materials, and then multiple brands in multiple states and countries can be involved.

Related: General Mills Recalls Flour After E. Coli Outbreak

"CDC, FDA, and several states are investigating an outbreak of 12 illnesses of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O157:H7 reported from several states," CDC said. "Six ill people have been hospitalized. Four people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure, and no deaths have been reported."

It's a strain of E. coli 0157 not seen before in food poisoning outbreaks, the CDC said.

E. coli bacteria are just about everywhere and they are normally harmless residents of the digestive tract. But there are a few forms that can cause diseases. The CDC estimates that about one in six Americans are made sick by foodborne illnesses every year — that's about 48 million people. About 3,000 die.

The toxin produced by E. coli 0157 can cause severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

"Most people get better within five to seven days, but some infections are severe or even life-threatening," the CDC said.

"Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, is a potentially life-threatening complication of E. coli O157 infection. Very young children and the elderly are more likely to develop severe illness and HUS than others, but even healthy older children and young adults can become seriously ill."