CDC sends investigation instructions to health workers about Lucky Charms complaints

The Ohio Health Alert Network has sent out a CDC health advisory about an investigation of illness complaints after consuming lucky charms cereal. According to the alert, there has been an increase in gastrointestinal illness complaints attributed to eating Lucky Charms cereal.

Earlier this month, Food Safety News reported on complaints made on the website. The Food and Drug Administration has been investigating reports of illnesses possibly linked to Lucky Charms cereal since the first week of April.

The full alert can be read below:

During April 2022, there has been an increase in complaints of gastrointestinal illness (GI) attributed to eating Lucky Charms cereal reported primarily to a crowdsourcing website. Some complaints of illness have also been reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state, and local health departments. There are very little data on the clinical presentation of these complaints, e.g., symptom profiles, incubation periods, and illness durations, as well as a lack of laboratory testing of clinical specimens. The scarcity of data and lack of a consistent clinical presentation are making it difficult to ascertain if any of these illnesses are linked to the suspected cereal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is coordinating with state and federal partners to characterize the clinical presentations and epidemiology of recent illness reports. CDC is also collaborating with state and federal partners to evaluate data collected from ill people to determine if an outbreak of GI illnesses is occurring and its potential link to Lucky Charms cereal.

Instructions from Ohio health officials
Given that there is not enough information at this time to establish an outbreak, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) recommends that:

Complaints related to Lucky Charms cereal should be approached like all other complaints.

Interview complainants with your standard illness complaint form to collect details on clinical presentation such as symptoms, symptom onset date, symptom resolution dates and times AND

Collect a 3 to 4 day food history.

Collect production code/production date, and lot code from any boxes linked to a complaint.

Consider collecting leftover boxes of Lucky Charms from ill peoples’ homes, particularly for persons who are also willing to submit a stool specimen. It is not yet clear what the cereal should be tested for — that will depend on a review of detailed clinical data. If possible, please hold the product until we know more about the etiology of the illnesses.

Contact the Bureau of Infectious Diseases (BID) Outbreak Response and Bioterrorism Investigation Team (ORBIT) at 614-995-5599 to discuss:

Potentially testing complainants who are willing to submit a stool specimen for common foodborne pathogens (this is usually not done for individual complaints, but in this situation would be valuable to rule out Lucky Charms as the source of illness).

After discussing the details of the complaint, if testing a clinical sample is indicated, ODH BID will provide a REDCap link to the electronic Lucky Charms Investigation Report Form for local health departments to submit collected surveillance information to ODH.

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