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First death from O157 E. coli outbreak confirmed

The E. coli food poisoning outbreak traced to deli counters in Gunma and Saitama prefectures has claimed the life of a child, it was learned on Sept. 13.

The child, who consumed a tainted dish from the Rokku branch of the deli chain "Delicious" in the Gunma prefectural capital of Maebashi, was one of two newly confirmed cases. The child's death was the outbreak's first fatality.

There are now nine confirmed cases of food poisoning from the O157 strain of E. coli among the same Maebashi deli's customers. All the cases identified across Gunma and Saitama prefectures fell ill with the O157 strain after purchasing potato salad and other items from "Delicious" delis, owned and operated by Ota, Gunma Prefecture-based Fresh Corp.

Potato salad sold at the deli counters was made by a food company in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture. However, samples of food items taken at the firm showed no sign of O157 contamination, and the source of the E. coli outbreak remains unclear.

Fresh Corp. voluntarily closed all its Delicious outlets, but reopened them on Sept. 7 after Maebashi municipal inspectors judged there would be no problem with the delis going back into operation. The Delicious Rokku branch was closed again starting on Sept. 13. The Maebashi public health center directed the outlet in August to improve its hygiene management practices.

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