As of April 12, 2018, 35 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from 11 states. Connecticut 2, Idaho 8, Illinois 1, Michigan 1, Missouri 1, New Jersey 7, New York 2, Ohio 2, Pennsylvania 9, Virginia 1 and Washington 1.  (CDC Report)

Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 22, 2018 to March 31, 2018. Ill people range in age from 12 to 84 years, with a median age of 29. Sixty-nine percent of ill people are female. Twenty-two ill people have been hospitalized, including three people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.

The current outbreak is not related to a recent multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to leafy greens. People in the previous outbreak were infected with a different DNA fingerprint of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.

Epidemiologic evidence collected to date indicates that chopped romaine lettuce is the likely source of this outbreak. Most people reported eating a salad at a restaurant, and romaine lettuce was the only common ingredient identified among the salads eaten. The restaurants reported using bagged, chopped romaine lettuce to make salads.

Traceback investigations are ongoing to determine the source of chopped romaine lettuce supplied to restaurant locations where ill people ate. At this time, no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand has been identified. However, preliminary information indicates that the chopped romaine lettuce was from the Yuma, Arizona growing region. Information collected to date indicates that chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region could be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and could make people sick.

The first lawsuit stemming from an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak traced to ground beef produced by United Food Group, Inc. was filed yesterday in Riverside County Superior Court, in California.

The lawsuit was filed against UFG by Seattle-based Marler Clark and San Diego-based Gordon and Holmes on behalf of Lawrence Fournier and Cynthia Centura of Hemet, California, whose four-year-old daughter, Lauren, became ill with an E. coli infection and was hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a severe, life-threatening complication of E. coli infection that can lead to kidney failure, after eating UFG ground beef.

“The meat industry has made significant progress in preventing E. coli outbreaks traced to meat products in the last five years,” said William Marler, who has dedicated his law practice to representing victims of foodborne illness outbreaks since representing over 100 victims of the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak. “One has to ask, ‘Who dropped the ball at UFG?’”

On June 3, 2007, UFG recalled 75,000 pounds of ground beef due to potential E. coli O157:H7 contamination. After additional testing and more reported illnesses, UFG expanded the recall on June 6 to include 370,000 pounds of ground beef. By June 9, UFG had again expanded its recall to include a total of approximately 5.7 million pounds of both fresh and frozen ground beef products.

The California Department of Health Services, the Colorado Department of Health, and the CDC reported 14 illnesses associated with the outbreak – 6 in Arizona, 3 in California, 2 in Colorado, 1 in Idaho, 1 in Utah, and 1 in Wyoming.
 

Marler Clark filed a lawsuit today on behalf of the estate of June Dunning, a Haggerstown, Maryland, resident who was part of a nationawide E. coli outbreak traced to contaminated spinach.  Ms. Dunning suffered an intense E. coli O157:H7 infection and hemolytic uremic syndrome before passing away on September 15, 2006. 

The lawsuit filing coincides with a California Department of Health and Food and Drug Administration announcement that today test results from the E. coli investigation confirmed that the same genetic fingerprint of the E. coli bacteria isolated from bags of spinach was found in samples of cattle feces from a ranch near the spinach fields implicated in the outbreak:

"This is a significant finding because it is the first time we linked a spinach or lettuce E.coli O157:H7 outbreak to test results from a specific ranch in the Salinas Valley," said State Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Horton.  "Our follow-up investigation on this ranch is continuing today with the ongoing assessment of animal management, water systems and agricultural practices to clarify how the bacterial contamination of the spinach occurred."

The trace-back investigation was narrowed from nine implicated ranches to four ranches.  The outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 from cattle feces was identified on one of these four ranches.  At this time, testing of other environmental samples from all four ranches that supplied the implicated lot of contaminated spinach is in progress.  The positive test result is a significant finding, but is just one aspect of this investigation.  The next step in the investigation is determining how the E. coli pathogen contaminated the spinach.  These implicated fields on these four ranches located in Monterey and San Benito counties are not being used to grow any ready-to-eat produce.

On Monday, Marler Clark will file another lawsuit on behalf of a victim of the recent E. coli O157:H7 outbreak traced to contaminated spinach. The lawsuit will be filed against Natural Selection Foods, LLC and National Selection Foods Manufacturing, LLC in federal court in Utah on behalf of Murray, Utah resident Sheila Leafty and her young son, Brayden. Brayden is one of at least 14 Utah residents who have become ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections after eating contaminated spinach produced by Natural Selection Foods. 

Marler Clark also added both Natural Selection companies to two lawsuits that the firm filed last week in federal court in Oregon and Wisconsin against Dole Food Company. Health officials in those states have reported that at least 19 residents (5 in Oregon and 14 in Wisconsin) were confirmed to be part of the outbreak. On Sunday, the Food and Drug Administration reported that 109 individuals in 19 states, sixteen of whom have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (see www.about-hus.com), have been confirmed as being part of the outbreak. One Wisconsin resident died after suffering complications of E. coli infection.

As the grower and producer, Natural Selections Foods should have been consumers’ first line of defense against E. coli entering the food supply. Instead, this company allowed contaminated produce to enter the marketplace and caused one of the largest fresh produce-related outbreaks in recent history.

Continue Reading Utah child sues California spinach producer and manufacturer over E. coli illness

An E. coli lawsuit was filed against Dole late Thursday in United States District Court for the District of Oregon.  The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Gwyn Wellborn, a Salem, Oregon woman who became ill with an E. coli O157:H7 infection after eating Dole brand baby spinach.  Ms. Wellborn and her husband, David, are represented by Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm that has represented hundreds of victims E. coli outbreaks, including victims of last fall’s E. coli outbreak traced to Dole brand lettuce.

Continue Reading Dole sued by Oregon E. coli victim