A major food-poisoning outbreak in Hokkaido has killed seven people, including a 4-year-old child, and sickened more than 100 others who ate pickled cabbage tainted with E. coli bacteria, health officials said Sunday.
In what is being described as the nation’s deadliest food-poisoning outbreak in a decade, six of those who died were elderly women who were fed the dirty cabbage at nursing homes.
According to health bulletins issued by the Hokkaido Prefectural Government, the six women died at nursing homes in Sapporo and Ebetsu. The 4-year-old girl died on Aug. 11 after exhibiting food-poisoning symptoms, also in Sapporo.
Some 103 people have apparently been sickened by the same item — a lightly pickled Chinese cabbage produced in late July by a Sapporo-based company, the bulletins said.
In Ebetsu, a female centenarian died early Sunday from multiple-organ failure, nine days after being hospitalized and 18 days after eating the cabbage, a Hokkaido health official said.
“She ate the pickles at breakfast at her nursing home on Aug. 1,” health official Narihiko Kawamura said by telephone.
The Sapporo girl died five days after developing E. coli symptoms, an official at the Sapporo public health center said.
“She and her family used to eat the company’s pickled cabbage, which they often bought at a local supermarket,” the Sapporo official, Seiichi Miyahara, said by telephone. “But it is not certain when she ate the contaminated product.”
Two of the other nursing home fatalities were in their 90s and died on Thursday, also in Ebetsu, about 10 days after being hospitalized with E. Coli symptoms.
“It is not easy to determine how the bacteria got mixed with the pickled cabbage,” the official said. “We don’t know whether there was a major problem with sanitation control at the company yet.”
In 2002, nine people were killed by E. coli infections after eating a marinated chicken and vegetable dish at a hospital and an annex that was a nursing home for the aged in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture.
370 sickened in Tochigi
More than 370 people were hit by suspected food poisoning during weekend sporting events in Tochigi Prefecture, officials said.
Approximately 200 people attending a junior high school field hockey tournament in the city of Nikko fell ill on Saturday, while about 170 people, many of them middle school students, complained of food poisoning symptoms at a softball event in Nasushiobara, local government officials said.
People at the two events had boxed lunches prepared by the same company in Nasushiobara, a prefectural health official said.
One student was hospitalized, but she is not in serious condition, the officials said.