E. coli O157:H7 was identified for the first time at the CDC in 1975, but it was not until seven years later, in 1982, that E. coli O157:H7 was conclusively determined to be a cause of enteric disease. Following outbreaks of foodborne illness that involved several cases of bloody diarrhea, E. coli O157:H7 was firmly associated with hemorrhagic colitis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated in 1999 that 73,000 cases of E. coli O157:H7 occur each year in the United States. Approximately 2,000 people are hospitalized, and 60 people die as a direct result of E. coli O157:H7 infections and complications. The majority of infections are thought to be foodborne-related, although E. coli O157:H7 accounts for less than 1% of all foodborne illness.

E. coli O157:H7 bacteria are believed to mostly live in the intestines of cattle but have also been found in the intestines of chickens, deer, sheep, goats, and pigs. E. coli O157:H7 does not make the animals that carry it ill; the animals are merely the reservoir for the bacteria.

While the majority of foodborne illness outbreaks associated with E. coli O157:H7 have involved ground beef, such outbreaks have also involved unpasteurized apple and orange juice, unpasteurized milk, alfalfa sprouts, and water. An outbreak can also be caused by person-to-person transmission of the bacteria in homes and in settings like daycare centers, hospitals, and nursing homes. We are involved in representing families of children who have suffered from this bacterium.

Another woman who says she was hospitalized two years ago because of an E. coli infection is suing the Boulder sandwich shop that was closed temporarily after an outbreak of the illness and the company that provided sprouts to the store.

In a lawsuit filed Sept. 20 in Boulder County Court — just meeting the statute of limitations — Sophia Wolf said she went to Jimmy John’s at 1125 13th St. on Sept. 20, 2008, and ordered and ate a sandwich that contained sprouts. Within a few days, Wolf said in the lawsuit, she started getting stomach pains that included symptoms like nausea vomiting and diarrhea that turned bloody.

She went to the emergency room at Boulder Community Hospital on Sept. 26, according to the lawsuit, and underwent tests. While waiting for the results, Wolf said in the lawsuit, she continued to suffer from symptoms and lost about 15 pounds.

A short time later, she was notified that she tested positive for having the E. coli bacteria in her system — the same strain that 17 other people had tested positive for in the Boulder area around that time, according to the lawsuit. Boulder County Public Health later concluded that the source of the outbreak was alfalfa sprouts and secondary person-to-person transmission at the Boulder Jimmy John’s store.

The sprouts that were provided to Jimmy John’s were manufactured and sold by Sprouts Extraordinaire in Denver. Shamrock Foods and Sysco Food Services Denver distributed the sprouts, according to the lawsuit.   Numerous defendants named in the lawsuit include Sprouts Extraordinaire, Jimmy John’s, Shamrock Foods and Sysco Denver.

In October of 2008, a University of Colorado student was first to file a lawsuit in connection with the E. coli outbreak. Katie Pendleton sued the operator of the Boulder Jimmy John’s after she said she was hospitalized twice after eating there.  That case was resolved, but the judgement has been sealed.

A federal judge has approved a settlement between Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. and a Cold Spring woman injured by contaminated meat.

U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank signed off on the settlement in a sealed court order Tuesday. Terms of the settlement were undisclosed.

Our client, former children’s dance instructor Stephanie Smith sued after E. coli in a Cargill-made hamburger left her paralyzed. Smith was the subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times story (found here) about food safety.

According to the Fresno Bee this morning, the Big Fresno Fair has agreed to pay $2.2 million to a Fresno girl who got sick from a strain of E. coli after visiting its petting zoo in 2005. Marler Clark worked with Fresno attorney Warren Paboojian — who represented Angela Malos, the girl who was sickened by the bacteria — informed Fresno County Superior Court Judge Donald Black of the settlement in a Friday hearing. Angela, who is now 6 and in the first grade, was 2 when she became ill after visiting the zoo with her family. She will live with the effects of the bacteria exposure for the rest of her life, Paboojian said.

"This has altered Angela’s life," he said after the hearing. Angela suffered strokes and kidney failure leading to dialysis. She recovered and is fine mentally, said her father, former KMPH (Channel 26.1) anchor John Malos, but the infection permanently affected her motor skills, requiring a full-time aide at school. She also has very limited vision in her right eye from the bacteria.

For more information on past Petting Zoo and Fair outbreaks, visit www.fair-safety.com.

Here is one of the most read articles on the web:

Woman’s Shattered Life Shows Ground Beef Inspection Flaws

It was a busy week for Cargill in the news last week:

Cold Spring E. coli survivor sues Cargill for $100M

Family of E. coli victim sues Cargill for $100 million

Minn. woman sues Cargill for tainted hamburger

Minnesota E. coli victim files $100M lawsuit against Cargill

Minn. woman sues Cargill for $100M over tainted meat

Dancer Paralyzed by E. coli Sues Cargill

Here is a video that should drive the point home:

A second Lincoln family is suing a Massachusetts business that is accused of supplying burger meat tainted with E. coli bacteria during a Lincoln Middle School trip after which several students and staff became sick.

Lincoln resident Barry Santos is the plaintiff on behalf of his daughter Lynn Santos. Lynn and other Lincoln sixth graders and staffers spent Oct. 13 through Oct. 16 doing activities on a class trip at Camp Bournedale in Plymouth, Mass. On the the trip’s last day, they ate burgers.

The suit, filed Friday in Plymouth County, Mass., Superior Court, alleges that Crocetti-Oakdale Packing, doing business as South Shore Meats, sold the "contaminated food" consumed that day and that it "was not fit for the uses and purposes intended by the defendant, i.e.. human consumption," according to a draft copy of the suit.

Some 20 to 30 Lincoln Middle School students and chaperones got sick from E. coli when they returned home, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health spokeswoman.

Earlier this month, Lincoln resident Jaimee Richmond, the mother of middler schooler Austin Richmond, filed suit against the same business.

Somerset, Mass., lawyer Steven P. Sabra is co-counsel for both lawsuits along with the Seattle-based firm Marler Clark, which specializes nationally in litigation involving food-borne illness allegations.
South Shore Meats, in Brockton, issued a voluntary recall after E. coli was found in leftover ground beef samples taken from the camp by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, according to a Rhode Island Department of Health advisory in October.

"I ask myself every day, ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why from a hamburger?’

Michael Moss does an amazing job of exposing the underbelly of how our meat is produced in the United States.

E. coli O157:H7 is a deadly bacteria that nearly took Stephanie Smith’s life.  Every day is a struggle for her now due to the ravages of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.

Despite the odds, she promises to dance again. Read her story and see the videos the New York Times produced – "The Burger That Shattered Her Life."

Cargill’s Response:

"In October 2007 when we learned there may be a problem, we immediately instituted a voluntary recall. A number of people were sickened, including Ms. Smith. Our hearts go out to Ms. Smith and her family, as well as the others whose lives have been so affected by O157:H7. Cargill conducts nearly 400,000 tests for pathogens each year using a testing methodology that exceeds U. S. Department of Agriculture standards. We also require our suppliers to test using a methodology that exceeds USDA standards. A complete food safety system combines antimicrobial interventions, employee training and safe food-handling procedures with testing. The testing verifies the effectiveness of all of these procedures. Over the past 10 years, Cargill has invested $1 billion in ongoing meat science research and new food safety technologies and interventions. We are committed to continuous improvement in the area of food safety."

The 2006 outbreak of E. coli tied to spinach sickened more than 205 people nationwide, many gravely. More than 31 developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) and five lost their lives.

One of the most critically ill was Jane Majeska of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, an 85-year old woman whose fight to stay alive in the months after she consumed the Dole E. coli O157:H7-tainted spinach cost almost a $500,000 dollars. William Marler of the Seattle-based foodborne illness law firm Marler Clark, along with the Fond du Lac firm of Sager, Colwin Samuelsen, this past week filed a lawsuit  in the Fond du Lac branch of the Wisconsin Circuit Court against Dole, Natural Selection Foods, Mission Organics and Pic-n-Save.

“This amazing woman fought through serious medical traumas and has continued to fight to win back her health,” said Marler. “Jane Majeska is alive today because she was incredibly healthy and active before she ate contaminated food, because she had tremendous medical care, and because she fought every hour of every day to get better,” continued Marler. “No one should have to go through that, but if they do, they certainly shouldn’t have to sue to be compensated for it. But sometimes, that’s what it takes.”

Jane Majeska ate Dole spinach in late August 2006. Within days, she was experiencing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that became bloody. She was admitted to the hospital as her kidneys failed and she was diagnosed with HUS. Her months in the hospital were marked by increasingly invasive procedures to address her cascading illnesses. In addition to renal failure, she experienced stroke, cognitive impairment, a collapsed lung, a pulmonary embolism, and the inability to eat or breathe on her own. She was given dialysis, blood transfusions, plasmapheresis, and survived on a feeding tube and ventilator. Even as she began to improve, she required aggressive physical, occupational, and speech therapy, as well as rehabilitation nursing.

Although E. coli outbreaks are often associated with meat, produce-borne outbreaks have become more frequent in recent years. The Center for Science in the Public Interest noted that fully 25 percent of E. coli outbreaks from 1990-1998 were traced to produce. Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that over the last 12 years, twenty-two E. coli outbreaks have been traced specifically to leafy greens.