King 5 News reports that Seattle and King County public health officials are investigating an E.coli outbreak at several Homegrown restaurants in the Seattle area.

Officials say four people have tested positive for Shiga-producing E. coli (STEC) after eating food at three different Homegrown restaurants in King County: Redmond, Kirkland, and Seattle at the Westlake Avenue location.

All four people – three adults and one child – ate the chicken pesto chicken sandwich during April 24-26, 2018. Victims suffered abdominal cramps and diarrhea, with one person reporting they had bloody diarrhea.

Health investigators inspected the three Homegrown locations and identified potential risk factors, such as handwashing facilities violations at two of three locations and a cold holding temperature violation at one of them. All three restaurants were required to complete a thorough cleaning and disinfection.

Investigators were also looking into the various ingredients of the chicken pesto sandwich. Since then, all Homegrown locations in King County have stopped selling the chicken pesto sandwich during the investigation.

  • The number of reported cases per week has decreased since the implicated products were recalled on 04 March 2018 with a total of 64 cases reported since 5 March 2018 (average 6.4 cases/week), whereas 249 cases were reported for the 10-week period prior to the recall (average 24.9 cases/week).
  • Prior to 2017, an average of 60 to 80 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases per year (approximately 1 per week), were reported in South Africa. In July 2017, an increase in laboratory-confirmed cases of listeriosis was reported to National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) which was followed by investigations into the reported increase. On 05 December 2017, the listeriosis outbreak was declared by the Minister of Health, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi. The source of the outbreak was identified as ready-to-eat processed meat products manufactured at Enterprise Foods’ Polokwane production facility. A recall of affected products was initiated on 04 March 2018.

  • 1 034 cases have been reported from 01 January 2017 to 16 May 2018. The number of new cases reported each week has decreased since the implicated products were recalled on 04 March 2018 (Figure 1). Neonates ≤28 days of age are the most affected age group, followed by adults aged 15 – 49 years of age (Figure 2). Most cases have been reported from Gauteng Province (59%, 606/1 034), followed by Western Cape (13%, 130/1 034) and KwaZulu-Natal (7%, 75/1 034) provinces (Table 1).

  • All clinical isolates received at NICD are undergoing whole genome sequencing (WGS). A total of 543 clinical isolates have undergone WGS to date (Figure 1); 92% (499/541) belong to the sequence type 6 (ST6) outbreak strain, and the remainder belong to thirteen different sequence types.
  • Listeriosis outbreak situation report draft _21May2018_final

According to the CDC, as of May 15, 2018, 172 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from 32 states.  Alaska (8), Arizona (8), California (39), Colorado (3), Connecticut (2), Florida (1), Georgia (4), Idaho (11), Illinois (2), Iowa (1), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), Massachusetts (3), Michigan (5), Minnesota (12), Mississippi (1), Missouri (1), Montana (8), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (8), New York (5), North Dakota (2), Ohio (6), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (21), South Dakota (1), Tennessee (3), Texas (1), Utah (1), Virginia (1), Washington (7), and Wisconsin (3).

Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 13, 2018 to May 2, 2018.

Ill people range in age from 1 to 88 years, with a median age of 29. Sixty-five percent of ill people are female. Of 157 people with information available, 75 (48%) have been hospitalized, including 20 people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

One death was reported from California.

Illnesses that occurred after April 21, 2018, might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of two to three weeks.

According to the FDA, the last shipments of romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region were harvested on April 16, 2018, and the harvest season is over. It is unlikely that any romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region is still available in people’s homes, stores, or restaurants due to its 21-day shelf life. The most recent illnesses reported to CDC started when romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region was likely still available in stores, restaurants, and in peoples’ homes.

The FDA has identified Harrison Farms of Yuma, Arizona, as the grower and sole source of the whole-head romaine lettuce that sickened several people in an Alaskan correctional facility, but has not determined where in the supply chain the contamination occurred.

The traceback investigation indicates that the illnesses associated with this outbreak cannot be explained by a single grower, harvester, processor, or distributor. While traceback continues, the FDA will focus on trying to identify factors that contributed to contamination of romaine across multiple supply chains.  The agency is examining all possibilities, including that contamination may have occurred at any point along the growing, harvesting, packaging, and distribution chain before reaching consumers.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says six Canadians have been stricken by a strain of E. coli that has a similar genetic fingerprint to romaine lettuce from Yuma Arizona that has already sickened 149 people in 29 states. At least 64 people have been hospitalized in the United States, including 17 with hemolytic uremic syndrome. One death occurred in California.

The six Canadian illnesses were reported between late March and mid-April in four provinces — one each in British Columbia and Alberta and two each in Saskatchewan and Ontario. One Canadian was hospitalized.  No deaths have been reported in Canada.

Of the six, two Canadians reported travelling to the U.S. before getting sick and eating romaine lettuce while they were there. The others ate romaine lettuce at home, or in prepared salads purchased at grocery stores, restaurants and fast food chains, before their illnesses occurred.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says romaine lettuce from the Yuma is no longer being produced and distributed, so the potential for exposure to contaminated lettuce is reduced.

According to the most recent update from NICD, the source of the outbreak continues to be identified as ready-to-eat processed meat products manufactured at Enterprise Foods’ Polokwane production facility. A recall of affected products was initiated on 04 March 2018.
Because of the recall the number of cases of listeriosis diagnosed each week has decreased, with three additional cases reported since the last situation report. In total, 1,027 cases have been reported from 01 January 2017 to 02 May 2018, with 58 cases reported for the 8-week period since 5 March 2018. During the eight weeks prior to 5 March 2018, 200 cases of listeria were reported.
1,027 cases have been reported from 01 January 2017 to 02 May 2018. The number of reported cases has decreased since the implicated products were recalled on 04 March 2018 (Figure 1). Neonates ≤28 days of age are the most affected age group, followed by adults aged 15 – 49 years of age (Figure 2). Most cases have been reported from Gauteng Province (59%, 603/1 027), followed by Western Cape (13%, 128/1 027) and KwaZulu- Natal (7%, 74/1 027) provinces (Table 1). There have been 201 deaths.
Following a recall of implicated products, the number of cases went down. However, it is anticipated that cases could still be reported for the following reasons:
1. The incubation period of listeriosis can be up to 70 days.
2. The implicated products have a long shelf life and it is possibly that despite the recall some products have not been removed from retail or consumer’s homes.
3. Cross-contamination at retail and in the home can occur.

By Food Safety Magazine Staff

Bill Marler is the most prominent foodborne illness lawyer in America, and a major force in food policy in the U.S. and around the world. Bill’s firm—Marler Clark: The Food Safety Law Firm—has represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose contaminated products have caused life-altering injuries and even death.

Bill began litigating foodborne illness cases in 1993, when he represented Brianne Kiner, the most seriously injured survivor of the historic Jack in the Box Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak, in her landmark $15.6 million settlement with the fast food company. For the last 25 years, Bill has represented victims of nearly every large foodborne illness outbreak in the U.S. He has filed lawsuits and class actions against Cargill, Chili’s, Chi-Chi’s, Chipotle, ConAgra, Dole, Excel, Golden Corral, KFC, McDonald’s, Odwalla, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Sizzler, Supervalu, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s. Through his work, he has secured over $650 million for victims of E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and other foodborne illnesses.

Bill Marler’s advocacy for a safer food supply includes petitioning the U.S. Department of Agriculture to better regulate pathogenic E. coli, working with nonprofit food safety and foodborne illness victims’ organizations, and helping spur the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act. His work has led to invitations to address local, national, and international gatherings on food safety, including testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the British House of Lords.

Bill travels widely and frequently to speak to law schools, food industry groups, fair associations, and public health groups about the litigation of claims resulting from outbreaks of pathogenic bacteria and viruses, and the issues surrounding it. He gives frequent donations to industry groups for the promotion of improved food safety and has established numerous collegiate science scholarships across the nation.

He is a frequent writer on topics related to foodborne illness. Among other accolades, Bill was awarded the NSF Food Safety Leadership Award for Education in 2010.

Link for Podcast:  https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/podcast/ep-25-bill-marler-25-years-food-safety/ 

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Google Play | Android

In this episode of Food Safety Matters, we speak to Bill Marler about: 

  • The circumstances under which he met the late Dave Theno
  • The Jack in the Box case and how it propelled his career
  • The current listeriosis outbreak in South Africa, and how it compares to the Jack in the Box case 25 years ago
  • Why foodborne illness cases involving hamburger and Escherichia coli are no longer a huge problem
  • How the Odwalla apple juice outbreak could have been avoided
  • Whether or not Salmonella should be officially declared an adulterant
  • The responsibility of food safety: consumer vs. food industry
  • His thoughts on the ongoing Peanut Corporation of America case and whether or not Stewart Parnell’s attempts at a new trial are valid
  • FSMA, and how the new regulations can be improved
  • Blockchain, whole-genome sequencing, and other technologies that are changing the food safety for the better
  • His newfound interest in public health as it relates to food safety

Related Content
Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat
20 Years of Marler Clark’s Top Foodborne Illness Cases

News Mentioned in This Episode
Deadly Listeria Strain Confirmed at South Africa Meat Plant
UPDATE: One Death Caused by Romaine Lettuce as E. coli Outbreak Spreads
New USDA Report Breaks Down Food Recalls 2004-2013; Trends in Food Recalls 2004-2013
UPDATE: Study: Fresh Produce Bacteria Can Thrive Despite Routine Chlorine Sanitizing; Official Study

The romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak is  on the minds of many at the 10th VTEC Conference in Florence.

122 sick from 26 states.

At least 52 hospitalized.

At least 14 with HUS.

1 death has been reported.

Ill people range in age from 1 to 88 years, with a median age of 29.

63% are female.

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) reports North Dakota’s first case of E. coli infection associated with romaine lettuce originating from the Yuma, Arizona growing region. The NDDoH has been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other state and local health officials in this national investigation. A second case in ND possibly associated with the outbreak is still under investigation.

As of May 2, 121 cases from 25 states, Alaska (8), Arizona (8), California (24), Colorado (2), Connecticut (2), Georgia (4), Idaho (11), Illinois (1), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (4), Mississippi (1), Missouri (1), Montana (8), New Jersey (7), New York (2), Ohio (3), Pennsylvania (20), South Dakota (1), Tennessee (1), Utah (1), Virginia (1), Washington (6), and Wisconsin (1), have been reported to the CDC, not including the case from North Dakota, which will be added to the outbreak summary in the next update. Fifty-two cases have been hospitalized and there has been one death. Cases range in age from 1 to 88 years, with a median age of 29.  At least 52 people have been hospitalized with 14 with HUS.  There has been one death.

The CDC reports as of May 1, 2018, 121 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from 25 states. A list of the states and the number of cases in each can be found on the Case Count Map page. Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 13, 2018 to April 21, 2018. Ill people range in age from 1 to 88 years, with a median age of 29. Sixty-three percent of ill people are female. Of 102 people with information available, 52 (51%) have been hospitalized, including 14 people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. One death was reported from California.

Illnesses that occurred after April 11, 2018, might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of two to three weeks.

Do these ladies look like they might have hepatitis A?

According to Live Science, Kentucky Derby fans may need to take some extra precautions before heading off to the races.

The Indiana State Department of Health is recommending that its residents get vaccinated against hepatitis A and take other steps to protect themselves from the illness before traveling to Kentucky or Michigan, both of which are experiencing large outbreaks of the viral infection.

Kentucky has reported more than 300 cases of hepatitis A since November 2017, with 39 new cases reported in the first week of April, according to the Kentucky Department for Public Health. Most cases in the state have occurred around Louisville — the city where the Kentucky Derby is held. The famous horse race, which draws more than 150,000 people each year, takes place on the first Saturday in May.

According to the CDC, a total of 265 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Typhimurium were reported from 8 states. WGS performed on bacteria isolated from ill people showed that they were closely related genetically.  Illnesses started on dates ranging from January 8, 2018, to March 20, 2018. Ill people ranged in age from less than 1 year to 89 years, with a median age of 57. Sixty-seven percent of people were female. Ninety-four hospitalizations were reported, including one person from Iowa who died. Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicated that chicken salad produced by Triple T Specialty Meats, Inc. and sold at Fareway grocery stores was the likely source of this multistate outbreak.

Yet, this in part is Triple T’s response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of 1 of the 265:

DEFENDANT TRIPLE T SPECIALTY MEATS, INC.’S ANSWER TO SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT, JURY DEMAND AND AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES

COMES NOW the Defendant, Triple T Specialty Meats, Inc. (hereinafter “Triple T”), by and through their attorneys, Betty, Neuman & McMahon, P.L.C., and for its Answer to Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint, states as follows:

Admits that Triple T is a citizen of the State of Iowa. Triple T admits that it produced chicken salad for Fareway.

Admit that Triple T produced Fareway chicken salad at the times relevant to this petition.

Admits that Salmonella is unsafe but denies that the food contained Salmonella.

Fareway shoots back at Triple T with its own lawsuit:

DEFENDANT FAREWAY STORES, INC.’S ANSWER, AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES, JURY DEMAND AND CROSS-CLAIMS AGAINST DEFENDANT TRIPLE T SPECIALTY MEATS, INC.

COME NOW Defendant Fareway Stores, Inc. (“Fareway”), by and through its attorneys, for its Answer to Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint (“Complaint”) and for its Affirmative Defenses, states as follows:

Upon information and belief, Fareway admits that state and federal regulators have identified multiple confirmed or probable cases of Salmonella Typhimurium in multiple states related to adulterated chicken salad manufactured by Triple T and unknowingly sold by Fareway.

Fareway admits that on February 14, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (“FSIS”) issued a statement, which speaks for itself.

Fareway admits the chicken salad Fareway sold at times relevant to Plaintiffs’ Complaint was produced by Triple T in Ackley, Iowa.

Fareway admits that at times relevant to Plaintiffs’ Complaint, Triple T distributed its chicken salad to Fareway in five-pound bags, packed two to a sealed cardboard box. Fareway further admits it repackaged and sold Triple T chicken salad to consumers in various sized plastic deli containers.

Upon information and belief, Fareway admits it unknowingly sold to consumers adulterated chicken salad that was manufactured by Triple T.

Fareway admits that Triple T manufactured a food product, including chicken salad, that was intended for sale to the public.

Fareway admits that Triple T manufactured and distributed ready-to-eat chicken salad that was contaminated with Salmonella Typhimurium.

Fareway admits that if Plaintiff suffered damages from eating chicken salad adulterated with Salmonella Typhimurium, then Triple T is strictly liable for Plaintiffs’ Damages.

Fareway admits that Triple T owed a duty to consumers and Fareway to use reasonable care when making representations about the certifications its ready-to-eat chicken salad had undergone prior to its distribution and sale of product, and that Triple T breached this duty.

Fareway admits that Triple T had a duty to comply with all statutes, laws, regulations or safety codes pertaining to the manufacture, distribution, storage and sale of its food products, failed to do so, and were therefore negligent.

Fareway admits Triple T breached the duties it owed to consumers of its ready-to-eat chicken salad and Fareway by committing the negligent acts and omissions.

Fareway admits Triple T had a duty to comply with statutory and regulatory provisions that pertained or applied to the manufacture, distribution, storage, labeling and sale of its food products, and that Triple T breached these duties.

Fareway admits Triple T had a duty to use reasonable care in the manufacture, distribution, and sale of its food products to prevent adulteration with Salmonella, and that Triple T breached this duty.

Fareway admits that if Plaintiffs consumed Triple T ready-to-eat chicken salad adulterated with Salmonella Typhimurium, and suffered injuries as a result, then Plaintiffs’ injuries, if any, proximately and directly resulted from the negligence of Triple T and Triple T’s violations of statutes, laws, regulations and safety codes pertaining to the manufacture, distribution, storage, and sale of food.

CROSS-CLAIMS AGAINST DEFENDANT TRIPLE T SPECIALTY MEATS, INC.

Defendant Fareway Stores, Inc. (“Fareway”), by and through its attorneys, and for its Cross-Claims against Defendant Triple T Specialty Meats, Inc. (“Triple T”), Fareway, by its undersigned attorneys, and pleading in the alternative and without prejudice to its answer to Plaintiffs’ Complaint, states as follows:

Triple T produced ready to-eat chicken salad, which it sold to Fareway for sale for human consumption. Fareway then sold the ready-to-eat chicken salad produced by Triple T to Fareway’s customers, including, as alleged in their Complaint, Plaintiffs.

On February 9, 2018, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (“IDIA”) contacted Fareway about a potential link between ready-to-eat chicken salad produced by Triple T and sold by Fareway and a multi-state outbreak of illnesses from Salmonella Typhimurium. That same day, Fareway voluntarily stopped selling the ready-to-eat chicken salad in all its stores.

On February 13, 2018, the IDIA and the Iowa Department of Public Health (“IDPH”) issued a consumer advisory warning that the Triple T chicken salad sold at Fareway stores may be adulterated with Salmonella Typhimurium.

An epidemiological investigation and product testing conducted by IDIA and IDPH, along with the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (“FSIS”), concluded, “Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicates that chicken salad produced by Triple T and sold at Fareway grocery stores is the likely source of this multistate outbreak.”

Specifically, FSIS stated, “The Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, and Iowa State Hygienic Laboratory determined that there is a link between the chicken salad from Triple T Specialty Meats, Inc. and this outbreak.”

On February 21, 2018, following this extensive investigation, Triple T recalled all ready-to-eat chicken salad that it produced between January 2, 2018, and February 7, 2018.

The ready-to-eat chicken salad was produced by Triple T, sold to Fareway, and shipped to Fareway stores in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

Triple T’s website represents that its meat processing facility in Ackley is “state- of-the-art” and “federally inspected.” Triple T’s website also states: “Our professional staff take pride in their work and providing you with the safest high-quality products available.” Triple T’s website goes on to state: “We go to great lengths to ensure that our customers receive nothing but the highest quality products. All products must pass our quality assurance inspection, meeting our customer’s specifications.”

Triple T also owed a duty to Fareway to use reasonable care to manufacture and distribute ready-to-eat chicken salad that was wholesome, free from adulteration and safe for human consumption.

Triple T breached these duties by manufacturing ready-to-eat chicken salad that was adulterated with Salmonella Typhimurium and was therefore defective as a matter of law under the Poultry Products Inspection Act, 21 U.S.C. § 458 and 9 CFR § 381 et seq. and was not safe for human consumption.

Triple T manufactured and distributed ready-to-eat chicken salad that was defective as a matter of law and not reasonably safe for human consumption because it was adulterated with Salmonella Typhimurium.

The chicken salad’s defective condition was present at the time Triple T sold the product to Fareway and Fareway then sold it to consumers.

Because Triple T sold a food product that was defective, due to contamination with Salmonella Typhimurium bacteria, Triple T is strictly liable to Fareway for the harm directly and proximately caused by the sale of the defective ready-to-eat chicken salad.

Triple T expressly warranted on its public website that Triple T provides customers such as Fareway with the “safest high-quality products available.” Triple T also represented on its website that, “We go to great lengths to ensure that our customers receive nothing but the highest quality products. All products must pass our quality assurance inspection, meeting our customer’s specifications.”

Fareway relied on these express warranties when purchasing chicken salad from Triple T.

By producing and selling ready-to-eat chicken salad that was adulterated with Salmonella Typhimurium at the time Triple T sold the chicken salad to Fareway, Triple T violated applicable laws and regulations, including the Poultry Products Inspection Act, 21 U.S.C. § 458 and 9 CFR § 381 et seq.

By producing and selling ready-to-eat chicken salad that was adulterated with Salmonella Typhimurium and violating applicable laws and regulations, Triple T failed to provide Fareway with food products that were of the safest quality; thereby breaching its express warranty.

By producing and selling ready-to-eat chicken salad that was adulterated with Salmonella Typhimurium and violating applicable laws and regulations, Triple T did not provide Fareway with the highest-quality products available; thereby breaching its express warranty.

This lawsuit will be entertaining.