Public Health reports E. coli outbreak likely linked to PCC West Seattle guacamole from one February date

Thanks for the tip. Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting a recent E. coli outbreak linked to PCC West Seattle (WSB sponsor). Here’s what the notice posted on the PHSKC website says:

Public Health is investigating an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 (also known as STEC). Three of the five people who got sick had testing that matched by genetic fingerprinting. This means they most likely got sick from the same source.

Based on information collected, we found one common source for all sick people, which was a store-made guacamole purchased at PCC Community Markets – West Seattle Co-op on February 10, 2024. Even though we think this is the most likely source of illness, we do not know for certain. We did not find out how the guacamole might have been contaminated with STEC and did not have any left to test.

This outbreak appears to be over.

The Public Health report says the five people got sick between February 14 and February 28 and all had gastrointestinal symptoms. None were employees. The agency adds these details:

Four people who became sick had testing that was positive for STEC O157:H7. Three people also had further testing showing they matched by whole genome sequencing or WGS (like genetic fingerprinting) at the Washington State Public Health Laboratory. One person who became sick did not have any testing done.

Public Health also subsequently visited the store last Friday (March 15) to review rules and prevention strategies. We contacted PCC and they pointed us to this announcement on their website’s “recalls” page. It reiterates the PHSKC information about the outbreak and adds:

PCC has fully cooperated with Public Health. West Seattle PCC temporarily ceased all production of guacamole, conducted a deep cleaning of food production areas, and reinforced safe food handling procedures with our staff.

We are so sorry to those impacted by this unfortunate incident. At PCC, we believe in providing open information and responding swiftly if a food safety concern arises. We hold ourselves to a higher standard and know we are trusted in our region for our high quality standards.

As a leader in fostering and promoting healthy, resilient and sustainable food systems, the co-op makes these commitments to our staff, members and customers:

Prioritize and educate: Food safety is top of mind for all of us at PCC — from our staff, food handlers and certified food safety managers at each neighborhood PCC store, to the leaders of our supplier approval process, right up to the co-op’s leadership team.

Teamwork:Every role at the co-op is important to strengthening PCC’s food safety culture. We work collaboratively across all departments, so team members understand how they impact food safety and quality, as well as how they can reduce food safety risks.

Excellence: PCC works with local, state and federal health agencies to ensure that we meet and exceed safety compliance standards.

Continuous improvement: We regularly review our food safety program, procedures, processes, tools, and technology to ensure support and resources to effectively and efficiently manage food safety risks.

Listen deeply: Finally, we will continue to listen deeply to our staff, co-op members and customers when a concern about food safety arises.

You may learn more about recall protocols here. All shoppers can sign up to receive recall notifications here.

We asked a PCC spokesperson if they’re certain no one has this still in their fridge: “As indicated by Public Health, the one common source for all sick people was store-made guacamole purchased on February 10. Given the short shelf life, it is unlikely that any shoppers have this guacamole (still).” But if anyone hearing about this thinks they might have gotten sick too, they should contact Public Health.

8 Replies to "Public Health reports E. coli outbreak likely linked to PCC West Seattle guacamole from one February date"

  • flimflam March 22, 2024 (8:20 am)

    Not exactly a timely warning – any idea why so late?

    • J March 22, 2024 (7:00 pm)

      I am one of the people who got sick from this- I ended up in the hospital. Was hoping PCC might refund the item, though it won’t help with the hospital bill! Here’s some info about the timeline, from my experience. I didn’t get sick until about a week after eating the contaminated item. Ended up in the hospital a few days later. It took about a week from the time I got out of the hospital to get lab work back and a diagnosis. Public Health contacted me that same week for a (voluntary) interview as part of their investigation into the source. Two weeks later, Public Health contacted me for a follow-up interview after identifying an outbreak cluster. The epidemiologist who conducted my interview asked LOTS of detailed questions about everything I ate 7 days before I got sick. (Mine maybe took 1.5 hours?) Based on the interviews, they were going to cross check store purchases (with consent). Definitely not comforting knowing that there’s a bit of a delay in identifying this sort of thing.

      • Alki resident March 22, 2024 (8:52 pm)

        Lawyer up and get compensation for your time off work and hospital visit, pain and suffering. This wasn’t your fault. 

        • Brian March 23, 2024 (3:20 am)

          It may not be PCC’s “fault” either. These food-borne illnesses can sneak through and, to my knowledge, this is not a pattern at PCC but a one-time occurrence. It is absolutely awful getting sick, and maybe PCC could do something compensatory. But to “lawyer up” over this seems predatory. 

          • Alki resident March 23, 2024 (12:59 pm)

            This product was made under a PCC employee and so YES it is their fault. And yes the victim deserves compensation for their illness and hospitalization, plain and simple. 

        • Al King March 24, 2024 (6:07 am)

          “Lawyer up” will accomplish 2 things. First: Will put lots of money in the lawyer’s pocket. 2nd: PCC-or any other sued business will simply raise their prices to recover their losses. So the money you get and put in your pocket will simply leave out another pocket.

      • flimflam March 23, 2024 (10:22 am)

        J – sorry to hear, that’s awful. I’ve had food poisoning twice but nothing resulting in a hospital visit.

  • anonyme March 23, 2024 (10:54 am)

    I contracted shiga toxin E. coli about a year ago and never was able to identify the source.  It was diagnosed after a visit to Swedish re: GI issues.  The infuriating part was that I knew nothing about the positive test until the health department called me.  Swedish never contacted me (not even through MyChart) and when I challenged them on it they had two dismissive excuses: one, the specific provider had been on vacation, and two, they didn’t think it was important.  About what I’ve come to expect from our so-called health-care system.

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