MAEBASHI -- In the E. coli breakout across deli counters in Gunma and Saitama prefectures, all 11 customers who got food poisoning -- including one fatality -- bought the tainted products at the counter here and ate them on the same day, it has been learned.
A total of 11 customers of the Rokku branch of the deli chain "Delicious" consumed products tainted with the O157 strain of E. coli on Aug. 11, with nine cases announced by Aug. 28 and an additional two, including the death of a 3-year-old girl, announced on Sept. 13. However, there was no single deli item consumed by all 11 people and the products included ones that had been cooked, so the source of the E. coli outbreak remains unclear. The Gunma Prefectural Government is set to investigate all 12 group stores in the prefecture.
According to the Maebashi Municipal Public Health Department and other sources, all of the O157 E. coli cases across the two prefectures were traced to locations of deli counter "Delicious" operated by Fresh Corp. based in Ota, Gunma Prefecture. In addition to the 11 cases at the Rokku branch, there was one other case at the Tsunatori branch in Gunma Prefecture, along with 9 cases at the Kagohara branch and one case at the Kumagaya branch in Saitama Prefecture. In Kagohara, Kumagaya, and Tsunatori, all nine of those with food poisoning ate potato salad.
However, at the Rokku branch, where all 11 people bought and consumed products on Aug. 11, only four people were confirmed to have eaten the potato salad. The products eaten by both the young girl who died and a 60-year-old woman inflected were all cooked products -- stir fried shrimp, stir fried bamboo shoots, simmered vegetables and tempura. The remaining 5 people ate products such as marinated dishes and coleslaw.
At the Rokku branch on Aug. 11, all dishes were in uncovered large bowls, and customers used tongs to take the products which they wished to buy. The same cooking utensils were used to prepare different ingredients, and the same tongs were also used to take different deli items -- a possible source of the contamination's spread.
Deli store operator Fresh Corp. now has tongs replaced after every use, sells non-cooked items in individual packages, and covers the bowls for cooked products.