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.