An E. Coli Outbreak Has Been Potentially Linked to Cake Mix in Multiple States—Here's What You Need to Know

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Close-up of a bowl of batter with hand mixer
Close-up of a bowl of batter with hand mixer

Getty Images / Robert Rowe / EyeEm

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and federal public health officials and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are actively investigating an outbreak of E. coli infections that is potentially linked to cake mixes. The outbreak currently spans across 12 states, but no specific brand or type of cake mix has been singled out yet.

Four of the states affected (Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio) have each reported two sick patients, while the rest of the states involved (Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia and Washington) have each reported one case. As of July 27, 16 total E. coli infections have been confirmed, and seven of those people have been hospitalized. Currently there have been no deaths reported, but one of the patients has developed kidney failure. 75% of those who have fallen ill are under the age of 18.

The E. coli bacteria in the cake samples are of the same genetic makeup, leading experts to believe that they all originate from the same source. Of the eight patients interviewed to date, six of them said they tasted or ate cake mix before their illness began. All patients are female, with dates of illness ranging from February 26, 2021 to June 21, 2021. The FDA is using store purchase records to try to pinpoint a brand or production facility from which the ill persons may have purchased cake mix.

The number of actual cases is predicted to be higher than the number currently being reported. It is possible that more people became sick and didn't seek care, or some people have developed the illness but won't know for 3-4 weeks that they're part of the outbreak, according to the CDC.

The CDC urges people to cook or bake all homemade or mix-based cakes, as it's the only way to completely kill E. coli bacteria. Additionally, the CDC recommends that consumers avoid tasting or eating uncooked batter, and discard any unused batter.

E. coli is a bacteria that can cause severe food poisoning, and children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems have a higher likelihood of experiencing a severe infection. Anyone who has developed symptoms of E. coli infection—such as stomach cramps, diarrhea and/or fever—should seek immediate medical attention and alert their doctor about possible exposure to the bacteria. 

Video: Blind taste-testing boxed white cake mixes