State Health, Agriculture and Markets Officials Issue Advisory About Illness Linked to Apple Cider

41 Cases Possibly Associated with Unpasteurized Cider Sold in Clinton County

Albany, October 1, 2004 – The New York State Department of Health and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets are alerting residents and health care providers statewide, and particularly those in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties, of a possible link between cider produced and sold at Rulf's Orchard in Peru, New York and recent cases of severe gastrointestinal illness among consumers.

The cider sold at Rulf's Orchard (located at 531 Bear Swamp Road in Peru) is an unpasteurized product and may have been contaminated by bacteria that could cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms, including bloody diarrhea, if consumed. To date, 41 individuals have reported illness possibly linked to consumption of the cider, including five who required hospital treatment. Several of these patients have since been discharged.

Laboratory tests thus far have confirmed the presence of Shiga toxin-producing bacteria in specimens obtained from four patients. Shiga toxin-producing bacteria are a class of microbe associated with several types of severe gastrointestinal illness. Although laboratory testing is underway to identify the exact type of bacteria responsible for the disease cluster, E. coli O757 has been ruled out using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing, a type of DNA fingerprinting

The State Health Department and the State Department of Agriculture and Markets are recommending that individuals refrain from consuming cider purchased from Rulf's Orchard during the month of September and discard any remaining product. Those who consumed the cider in question and are experiencing gastrointestinal illness should contact a health care provider immediately. It is especially important that these individuals do not try to treat severe symptoms on their own with over-the-counter medications. Doing so can expose them to Shiga toxin for a longer period of time and increase the risk of complications.

To reduce secondary transmission, anyone who has gastrointestinal illness should be especially careful about hand-washing. People who work in food service, day care centers or who care for ill individuals may not go to work with diarrheal illness.

The State Health Department has issued a health advisory to all regional hospitals and county departments of health to implement enhanced surveillance protocols for gastrointestinal illness. The department is also urging all health care providers to report any cases of patients seen for gastrointestinal illness to their county health department.

The State Department of Agriculture and Markets oversees the production of cider. Federal regulations require businesses which produce and sell unpasteurized cider to label the product and place signs in their business clearly stating the possible health-related risks associated with consuming the product.

The State and county health departments and the State Department of Agriculture and Markets are continuing to investigate the reported cases of illness and their possible link to the cider. Please contact the local health department in the county where you live, or the regional office of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets at 518-457-4492 for additional information.