Food history survey tracks Inland Northwest E. coli outbreak



Posted on May 29, 2014 at 5:48 PM

Updated Friday, May 30 at 3:11 AM

How far can you accurately remember what you ate?

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho -- Health officials tracked down the source of food borne illnesses by giving patients a survey asking them to recall everything they have recently eaten.

The 6-page surveys can range from up to three days for diseases like salmonella and up to a week for others like E. coli. In Spokane and Kootenai County, eight people were hospitalized in May with E. coli.

CONNECT: 6 page food history survey

READ: E. coli outbreak triggers investigation at N. Idaho produce company

The whole process began when those people were asked to recall in detail everything they had eaten in the past seven days.

Evergreen Fresh Sprouts is under investigation after health officials linked raw clover sprouts grown there to the illnesses. This is based off a survey the patients took in which they were asked to recall what they had eaten within a week.

MORE: 31 illnesses in NW linked to salmonella outbreak

Once the victims test positive for the strain of E. coli, local health districts are notified by the hospital.

Patients are asked to recall everything from what type of food they ate and where, to recent animal exposure.

Since the incubation period for E. coli is between five and seven days, the patients are asked to consider everything from that time. If it is salmonella, it is just one to three days,

In this case, health officials noticed raw clover sprouts as a common strain. They then go through a tedious process of elimination to try to determine the source.

READ: Idaho E. coli victim sues Jimmy John's and Moyie Springs' sprout farm

Evergreen Fresh Sprouts was indicted as the likely source in this case but the health officials are still investigating.

The owner of the farm, David Scharf, said the surveys are a good starting point but he just wishes more tests were done first.

“I think you need surveys, something along those lines. But before you go accusing someone, you need both lines of proof,” said Scharf.

KREM 2 on Your Side spoke with health officials in Kootenai County. They said their survey and their investigation process is practically identical to the way it is done in Washington.