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.