Citing E. coli concerns, Stearns County drops petting zoo

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The Stearns County Fair, which runs Wednesday through Sunday, has decided to end its petting zoo exhibit amid concerns that it might spread E. coli.

Last year, five people who attended the fair contracted E. coli, but the Minnesota Department of Health said the fair was not confirmed as the source of the outbreak, the St. Cloud Times reports.

“The one thing we found over the years, no matter how many signs and stuff you put up there’s always going to be somebody that’s going to pet the animals and then they don’t wash their hands afterward,” one fair official tells the Times.

Petting zoos have been the source of three E. coli outbreaks at Minnesota county fairs since 1998 and at dozens of other fairs around the country, says Food Poisoning Bulletin. Last year, an outbreak at the Cleveland County Fair in North Carolina sickened more than 100 people.

Indeed, the concern is now more widespread. "It’s not just our fair, it’s really statewide," one farmer tells the St. Cloud paper.

Of course, there are plenty of animals and eating at the Minnesota State Fair, which is coming soon.

Is E. coli just everywhere? It might seem that way, as just last week there were a number of metro beaches closed due to high rates of E. coli in the water, and that was after three people were infected in the not-so-purifying waters of Lake Minnetonka.

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