E. coli outbreak first with cider

Thursday, October 14th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Ken Livesay has been making unpasteurized
apple cider for 20 years at his family's Wagoner County orchard.
But this month, state health officials say the juice is making
children ill.

There have been five confirmed cases of E. coli poisoning in
Tulsa-area children, including a 4-year-old girl with kidney
failure. Four other children may have contracted the disease, state
health officials said.

Of the five confirmed cases, all the children, ages 2 to 11,
drank Livesay Orchards cider around the first week of October, said
Dr. Mike Crutcher, state epidemiologist with the state Health

"This is the first time we have identified an outbreak
associated with unpasteurized apple cider in Oklahoma," Crutcher
said Thursday.

Two percent of the juice sold in this country is unprocessed.
The FDA estimates that up to 48,000 people are sickened each year
by such microbes as salmonella in untreated orange juice and E.
coli in apple cider and juice.

In 1996, at least 66 people were sickened in the western United
States and Canada from drinking untreated Odwalla brand apple juice
tainted with E. coli. One 16-month-old Colorado girl died.

Crutcher warned northeastern Oklahoma residents not to drink the
unpasteurized cider from Livesay Orchards in Porter.

"We've been making cider for almost 20 years and this is the
first time there's been any suspicion," Livesay said. "It is an
unfortunate thing, but first of all, I'm very concerned about the
safety of children."

Four of the children who have contracted the disease were
treated and released from a Tulsa hospital. The other child, a
4-year-old girl, remained in critical condition Thursday with
kidney failure.

Symptoms of E. coli typically appear a few days after exposure.
They include watery diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, low-grade
fevers and blood in the stool. Crutcher said anyone who has
consumed the cider and has such symptoms should contact a doctor.

E. coli starts to destroy the organs and can lead to
hemolytic-uremic syndrome, a disease that destroys red blood cells
and causes kidney failure.

"Every case that we have had so far has drank the cider," he
said. "We're not sure that there was only one lot or a batch that
was contaminated."

Livesay Orchards has about 20 acres of apples and produces
roughly 3,000 gallons of apple cider a year, Livesay said.

About 10 employees work at the orchard. Cider is made from
apples that are picked from trees, graded for quality and washed
before being pressed in a stainless steel unit, he said.

"It is a very sanitary process," Livesay said. "We thought we
were making a safe product."

The cider is only marketed in the Tulsa area. It is sold in
half-gallon and one-gallon containers labeled as apple cider
produced at Livesay Orchards. Livesay said they are still awaiting
more test results from the Heath Department.

"I don't know what we'll do," he said. "We were almost
finished with production this year. For next year, I don't know
what it means."