E. coli from Saitama deli’s potato salad leaves girl, 5, in critical condition, pair severely ill

Kyodo

A 5-year-old girl is in critical condition and two others are severely ill after eating a supermarket potato salad product infected with O-157 E. coli, Saitama Prefecture said Monday.

The victims all ate potato salad sold at the Shokusaikan Marche Kagohara supermarket in the city of Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, the prefecture said.

In addition to the girl, who remains unconscious, a 4-year-old boy and a 60-year-old woman have been hospitalized. All three are not expected to be discharged soon.

According to Saitama Prefecture, the supermarket’s deli — Derishasu Kagohara — procured the potato salad from a food-processing factory from outside the prefecture, then mixed cut pieces of ham and apples.

The Kumagaya Public Health Center has ordered that the deli be closed for three days amid an investigation into the food poisoning, including what caused the E. Coli infection and the routes through which the salad was distributed.

The incident came to light after the prefecture was notified of a boy being admitted to a Gunma Prefecture hospital on Aug. 14. The Kumagaya Public Health Center learned that eight Saitama residents, who all ate the potato salad sold on Aug. 7 and Aug. 8, complained of stomach pains.

Three others ranging in age from 7 to 12 were also hospitalized for symptoms such as diarrhea, but have been released from hospitals already.

The 5-year-old girl who remains in critical condition has been diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a condition caused by an abnormal destruction of red blood cells.

Fresh Corp., a Gunma-based supermarket and deli store chain, said no other outlets have reported cases of food poisoning. The firm has apologized for the incident on its website.

Many users of the supermarket expressed shock that such everyday food could cause serious food poisoning.

Shokusaikan Marche Kagoshara is open around the clock. In the wake of the incident, notices were put up at its entrance and on the wall of its deli section, notifying customers of the food poisoning outbreak. Employees were seen taking deli products off the shelves.

A 23-year-old man from Kumagaya said he was surprised to see no deli service at the store on Monday.

Eiko Hashimoto, 61, who bought vegetables at the store, likewise expressed shock. “I come to the store often but have never had trouble. It’s the time of year when we should fear (food poisoning),” she said.