Health worker at the Center for Disease Control (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
(WXIA) -- The Farm Rich brand food maker is recalling about 3 million pounds of frozen pizza, mozzarella bites, Philly cheese steaks and other products linked to a rare and potentially dangerous outbreak of E. coli poisoning.
The company is based out of Buffalo, N.Y., but the foods likely affected were manufactured in a plant in Waycross, Ga. Snacks are being pulled, and have best buy dates from January 1, 2013 through September 29, 2014.
The foods have already made 24 people sick in 15 states, the illness likely stems from the bacterium E. coli 0121. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that seven people have been hospitalized.
According to JoNel Aleccia of NBC News, there are several complexities in identifying E. coli 0121, and people may have consumed the foods without knowing it.
Aleccia said E. coli 0121 is a strain that can be just as dangerous as another form, 0157:H7, which is easier to identify. It is often tied to outbreaks caused by hamburgers.
The harmful E. coli 0121 may be found in Farm Rich frozen chicken quesadillas, mini pizza slices, and other snack foods.
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The Thursday announcement expands a March 28 recall of 196,222 pounds of Farm Rich brand frozen chicken quesadillas and other frozen mini meals and snack items because they could be contaminated with E. coli O121.
The bacteria in E. coli 0121 and 0157 make poisons that can cause sickness and symptoms including bloody diarrhea, kidney failure and death.
E. coli 0121 was part of the 2011 "big six" ban that affected beef supply in the United States. This outbreak; however, is the first time Food Safety and Inspection Service officials have recalled food that could contain E. coli 0121.
The bacterium usually is not tested for in clinical laboratories, as they typically look for E. coli 0157. To find E. coli 0121, labs must screen for the presence of Shiga toxins, then send positive samples to public health labs to find it.
According to Aleccia, the strain involved in this outbreak is so rare, its genetic fingerprint has been seen less than 30 times in PulseNet, the CDC's network of laboratories that track bacteria involved in food borne illness.
The CDC said this strain of E. coli 0121 was found by the New York State Department of Health in a package of Farm Rich brand frozen mini chicken and cheese quesadillas from an ill person's home.
The toxin usually causes sickness between two and eight days after it is consumed. Although most recover in a few days, others can become severely sick with hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can lead to kidney failure.