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Rare E. Coli Outbreak Linked To Soy-Based Nut Butter; Kids Mostly Affected

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- An outbreak of a rare E. coli strain that may stem from a soy-based nut butter has made a dozen people ill across the United States, including four people in California, according to state health officials.

Santa Clara County Department of Public Health spokesperson Joy Alexiou confirmed that two of the four California cases occurred in Santa Clara County. Alexiou said both individuals are under the age of 18 and both have now recovered from their illnesses.

"All four California patients reported eating I.M. Healthy brand Creamy SoyNut Butter in the week before becoming ill," the California Department of Public Health announced in a statement Friday.

The CDPH is now warning consumers not to eat I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter or granola coated with SoyNut Butter due to a possible E. coli contamination.

Dr. Karen Smith, the director of the California Department of Public Health warned that children, in particular, should not consume these products. Dr. Smith said that anyone who has the products should dispose of them immediately.

The company has issued a voluntary recall and the CDC is investigating the outbreak, but epidemiologic evidence indicates that the I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter is "a likely source of this outbreak," according to the CDC.

Most of the patients have been children and "several patients have been hospitalized with a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS. The most severe cases of HUS can include kidney failure," the CDC announced Friday.

So far, of the 12 people who fell ill, six have been hospitalized and of them, four children have suffered kidney failure, according to the CDC.

While the nut butter manufacturer is voluntarily recalling their butters with the best by dates of 8-30-18 and 08-31-18, state health officials say people should avoid eating the products, which have a shelf life of two years, until they can confirm exactly which batches and products are a health hazard.

The rare strain of E.coli, identified as STEC O157:H7, can produces symptoms between one and eight days after exposure. Symptoms include stomach cramps, and diarrhea with bloody stools, health officials said.

While most people who fall ill with will recover within a week, young children and the elderly are at highest risk for HUS. Anyone who develops the symptoms is advised to consult their health care provider.

The other states where people have fallen ill with this strain of E. coli are Arizona,, Maryland, New Jersey, and Oregon.

By Hannah Albarazi - Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.

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