June 2007

As of June 28, 52 persons infected with Salmonella Wandsworth have been reported to CDC from 17 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin.

California (seven cases), Colorado (five cases), Connecticut (one case), Georgia (one case), Indiana (one case), Massachusetts (three cases), Minnesota (two cases), New Hampshire (two cases), New Jersey (two cases), New York (13 cases), Oregon (one case), Pennsylvania (three cases), Tennessee (one), Texas (one), Vermont (three cases), Washington (four cases), and Wisconsin (two cases).

Among the patients for whom clinical information is available, 77% developed bloody diarrhea and 11% were hospitalized. No deaths have been attributed to this infection. Onset dates, which are known for 49 patients, ranged from March 4, 2007 to June 11, 2007.

See my earlier post on Veggie Booty

This warning is based on 52 reports of illness (may be as high as 55) across 17 states, beginning in March 2007. Almost all the illnesses have occurred in children under 10 years old, with the most cases in toddlers. Most persons had reported bloody diarrhea; four were hospitalized.

States reporting illnesses include: California (seven cases), Colorado (five cases), Connecticut (one case), Georgia (one case), Indiana (one case), Massachusetts (three cases), Minnesota (two cases), New Hampshire (two cases), New Jersey (two cases), New York (13 cases), Oregon (one case), Pennsylvania (three cases), Tennessee (one), Texas (one), Vermont (three cases), Washington (four cases), and Wisconsin (two cases).

In the last 15 years, I have done several thousand Salmonella-related cases.  Here are the symptoms to watch out for:

* Diarrhea, particularly bloody diarrhea
* Abdominal cramps
* Fever

Symptoms typically begin within one to four days after exposure to the bacteria. In infants, persons with poor underlying health and those with weakened immune systems, Salmonella can invade the bloodstream and cause life-threatening infections.

Some additional interesting news:

Tom Incantalupo of News Day had an interesting take on the recent recall:

Veggie Booty snack recalled for possible salmonella

Robert’s American Gourmet Food was in the news earlier this month when company president Robert Ehrlich claimed in a lawsuit that Sea Cliff village officials have been harassing him over a coffee bar and restaurant he runs because he is Jewish. Village officials denied the charges, and a federal jury ruled against him.

Tom Perrotta of the New York Law Journal wrote on February 7, 2006:

Court Rejects Class Settlement and Attorney Fees in Suit Over Nutrition Data

A $3.5 million class action settlement — and $790,000 in attorney fees — over snack foods that were found to have more fat than advertised has been thrown out by a state appeals court in Brooklyn. The Appellate Division, 2nd Department’s ruling in Klein v. Robert’s American Gourmet Food, Inc., 2003-00553, found that the trial judge who approved the settlement did not adequately consider the relevant factors in certifying a class over Pirate’s Booty snacks, created by Robert’s American Gourmet Food, Inc., and manufactured by Keystone Food Products. It remanded the case for further consideration.

I must tell you – given the legal track record of the company, one wonders at the legal strategy they will use after poisoning 52 children under the age of 10 – good luck.  Also, you must see Robert Ehrlich on: "The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch" on YouTube
You can Google "Robert Ehrlich Booty" too. 

We have been contacted by over a dozen families and we are continuing to investigate claims.  Several of the parents reported frustration because they thought they were serving their kids a "healthy" snack.  The fact that we had some in our own house really drives home the point that food safety has to be important to all of us.  I found this video of a baby eating booty on YouTube.

Continue Reading Updated Veggie Booty Recall Update – Ill children in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin

Pablo Lopez of the Fresno Bee and I have spoken several times over the last week as the Bee has been covering this unfortunate incident.  What is unfortunate, in addition to the illnesses suffered, is the fact that many E. coli outbreaks have occurred over the last months – see my earlier blog post.

"I thought the beef industry had cleaned up, but there is obviously still a ways to go before people like Mr. Jorgensen can feel confident in the safety of the meat products they are eating," Marler said.

A man who was hospitalized for 15 days with E. coli has sued a Fresno barbecue business whose cooked tri-tip has been linked to an outbreak last month that sickened more than two dozen people.

Fresno resident Donald Jorgensen, 80, contends in his Fresno County Superior Court suit that he became ill from E. coli after he ate tri-trip that was purchased from The Grill at the Meat Market on West Alluvial Avenue.

Jorgensen and his wife, Beverly Jorgensen, want The Meat Market Inc. to pay for more than $150,000 in medical expenses. They also are seeking damages for negligence and "breach of implied warranty," a legal term that means they had a right to expect the meat was safe to eat.

The Jorgensens attended a graduation party in Fresno on May 19. At the event, Donald Jorgensen ate tri-tip that was purchased at The Grill at the Meat Market, the suit said. Three days later, he began to suffer severe diarrhea.

On May 27, he went to an emergency room for severe diarrhea and dehydration, said Seattle lawyer William D. Marler, who along with San Diego lawyer Fred Gordon represents the Jorgensens. A test of his stool sample showed a presence of E. coli, Marler said.

Jorgensen was released from the hospital, but he was readmitted on May 30. He remained hospitalized until June 15.

Marler said the E. coli caused his client to suffer hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially dangerous condition characterized by anemia and acute renal failure.

He said his client is fortunate to be alive. The extent of damages is not yet known, because Jorgensen is still recovering and faces risks of future complications.

Tests confirmed that two samples of leftover tri-tip purchased at The Grill at The Meat Market were contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, a dangerous strain of bacteria, Fresno County health officials have said. But investigators have not yet determined how the cooked meat became contaminated.

The meat that was tested had been served at private events on May 19. Initial tests run by the county showed 27 people were infected with E. coli bacteria. Of those, 25 had eaten the cooked tri-tip at private events.

Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer for Land Line Magazine and I spoke this week:

What do E. coli attorney Bill Marler and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have in common in the ongoing debate over food safety?

After last September’s E. coli outbreak traced back to California bagged spinach, Marler and OOIDA both came to the same conclusion – that the federal food safety system must be overhauled to prevent future food-related outbreaks.

Marler is currently represents 93 consumers who were sickened or died after eating E. coli-contaminated bagged spinach, and OOIDA became involved in the debate after several of its members were left “holding the bag” when pallets of contaminated spinach were left on their trucks.

Marler and OOIDA have both testified on the need for federal mandatory recall authority be given to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which currently counts on companies to “do the right thing” if problems are reported with their product.

Both agree the produce industry should not be allowed to regulate itself and have been following the ongoing investigation into the E. coli outbreak closely.

After more than 200 were sickened and three died after eating bagged spinach, federal investigators were called in and searched farms in three counties and two factories in California, including plants run by Growers Express LLC in Salinas and Natural Selections LLC in San Juan Bautista.

So when the announcement was made last week that the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Francisco was not pursuing criminal charges against growers and processors involved in last fall’s nationwide E. coli outbreak, and that investigators did not find that growers and processors “had deliberately skirted the law or were negligent in preventing tainted food from entering the marketplace,” neither Marler nor OOIDA Regulatory Affairs Specialist Joe Rajkovacz were surprised.

“In 14 years of doing these types of cases I really can count on one hand how many times a food company has ever been subjected to any sort of criminal sanction – it just never happens,” Marler said. “That’s not to say that it shouldn’t happen – it just doesn’t.”

Continue Reading E. coli attorney, truckers on same side in food safety debate

All lots and sizes of “Veggie Booty” Snack Food are being recalled following a report of as many as 55 cases of Salmonella poisoning associated with consuming the product.  It is Salmonella Wandsworth – very rare serotype – March 1 – June 11 onsets.  “Veggie Booty” Snack Food is sold in supermarkets, health food stores, and vending machines and online in the United States and Canada. It is sold in flexible plastic foil bags in 4 ounce, 1 ounce and half-ounce portions.  We bought some today at about 1:00 PM Seattle time.  See Recall Notices – Company’s and FDA’s.  Veggie Booty contains a blend of Spinach, Kale, Cabbage, Carrots and Broccoli.  I called my kids at home today and found out that we had some of it in the pantry.  So, it looks like we have some evidence to test.

Salmonella is one of the most common enteric (intestinal) infections in the United States. Salmonellosis (the disease caused by Salmonella) is the second most common form of bacterial foodborne illness. It is estimated that 1.4 million cases of salmonellosis occur each year in the U.S.; 95% of those cases are foodborne-related. Approximately 220 of each 1000 cases result in hospitalization and eight of every 1000 cases result in death. About 500 to 1,000 or 31% of all food-related deaths are caused by Salmonella infections each year.

The acute symptoms of Salmonella gastroenteritis include the sudden onset of nausea, abdominal cramping, and bloody diarrhea with mucous. Fever is almost always present. Vomiting is less common than diarrhea. Headaches, myalgias (muscle pain), and arthralgias (joint pain) are often reported as well. The onset of symptoms usually occurs within 6 to 72 hours after the ingestion of the bacteria. The infectious dose is small, probably from 15 to 20 cells.  Generally, illnesses last five to seven days, although severe complications may occur.

As the managing partner of Seattle-based, Marler Clark, I have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella poisonings in the last fifteen years.  Outbreaks have included cases against Chili’s, ConAgra, Golden Corral, KFC, Malt-O-Meal, Sheetz, Sun Orchard, Wal-Mart and Western Sizzlin.’

I found this on the “Veggie Booty” website interesting:

Veggie Booty is a delicious snack that you and your family will love

Veggie Booty is made from the finest ingredients

Veggie Booty will change the way you eat, while enjoying the finest
snack on the planet

Veggie Booty puts you in the mindset to eat healthier and change your
life. Take it on a train or in your car, one a walk or in a boat

Veggie Booty will be your good friend

This is a life-changing snack that will help you eat healthier

Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote for Salon.com two years ago an article entitled – “Bootylicious”

My kids’ favorite snack smells funkier than poop, has questionable nutritional value and leaves a trail of bright green powder in its wake. Still, I can’t imagine life without it.  Veggie Booty is basically crack for babies. Which is exactly why parents buy it.

According to various press and government sources:

Four Washington kids sickened in salmonella outbreak

The state Health Department says four children have been sickened by a rare type of salmonella blamed for outbreaks in 17 states.  State health officials believe the four Washington cases of salmonella poisoning are linked to contaminated snacks called “Veggie Booty,” which are under a national recall.  The four sick children in Washington are younger than 5. Two cases are in Whatcom County, while King County and Spokane County each report one case. All four kids have recovered.  Officials say more than 50 people nationwide, mostly young children, have been sickened in the salmonella outbreak. Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause diarrhea, fever and vomiting.

A Santa Barbara County toddler is recovering Thursday night from salmonella caused by a popular snack

The Santa Barbara County of Public Health confirmed his illness is linked to “Veggie Booty” made of puffed rice and corn. The company that produces it has recalled the snack. Health officials said luckily, the toddler was not hospitalized and has fully recovered.

Two Minnesota kids infected with salmonella

Veggie Booty has been linked to the infection of a six-month-old boy and an 11-month-old girl in Minnesota.  Two young children in Minnesota are among 52 people nationally infected by a rare type of salmonella poisoning linked to the snack food Veggie Booty, made by Robert’s American Gourmet, a New York-based company. Both unidentified children, a six-month-old boy and an 11-month-old girl, are from the Twin Cities area. The boy has recovered, and the girl is recovering, said officials from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

Deschutes County Oregon child sickened by “Veggie Booty”

This “healthy snack” food is linked to at least 52 cases of salmonella infection in 17 states, mostly children under the age of 3. The Deschutes County case – apparently the only one confirmed in Oregon – “came through about three weeks ago,” said Patty Thomas, the county’s communicable disease coordinator. The child’s gender and location was not further identified.

Colorado Salmonella Cases May Be Linked To Recall

Five cases of salmonella in Colorado may be linked to a snack food that has been recalled nationwide, health officials said Friday.

Vermont salmonella cases may be linked to recalled food

The Vermont Health Department is warning people not to eat Veggie Booty snack food, which has been linked to three cases of salmonella poisoning in Vermont.

New York Veggie Booty linked to illnesses affecting two in region, 53 nationwide recall

Two young siblings from Albany County suffered salmonella poisoning after eating Veggie Booty, a puffed corn snack popular with kids. Veggie Booty was removed from store shelves Friday after 53 cases of salmonella poisoning were reported in 17 states. New York, with 14 reported poisonings, had the most cases. None have been fatal. Of the other New York cases, eight occurred in New York City, two in Suffolk County, one in Nassau County and one in Westchester County, according to Claudia Hutton, spokeswoman for the state Health Department.

NATIONAL SALMONELLA OUTBREAK HAS CASE IN INDIANA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in conjunction with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced a Salmonella Wandsworth outbreak in 17 states in connection with Veggie Booty snack food. State health officials report one case in Indiana.

FDA warns against ‘Veggie Booty’ snacks; illness reported in Texas

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning against eating Veggie Booty children’s snack food, marketed by Robert’s American Gourmet of Sea Cliff, N.Y., after people in 17 states
including Texas became sick after eating it.

Three Pa. tots among those sickened by tainted Veggie Booty

State health department officials say three Pennsylvania tots are among more than 50 sickened nationwide by salmonella bacteria in Veggie Booty snacks. The Pennsylvania tots have all recovered. All were two years old or younger and one child had to be hospitalized. State health officials told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the sickened children live in Westmoreland, Crawford and Chester counties.

Salmonella poisoning cases include local child

A metro Atlanta child is among 57 people sickened in an 18-state outbreak of a rare form of salmonella poisoning, state and federal health officials said Thursday.  The child has recovered from the food-borne illness that can cause diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps and, in more severe cases, even death, said Belen Moran, spokeswoman for the Georgia Division of Public Health.

 

 

Sudhim Thanawala, Associated Press Writer, reported on the failure of the State Assembly to pass meaningful food safety legislation.  The three bills by Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, had earlier passed the Senate but were held up in the Assembly Agriculture Committee, where one was rejected and the other two did not come to a vote.

  • One of his bills would have called for quality standards for irrigation water, prohibited untreated manure from being used as fertilizer and banned portable toilets from farm fields.
  • Another would have authorized the California Department of Public Health to establish an inspection program for leafy vegetables and adopt recall procedures for contaminated produce
  • A third, which the committee rejected, would have made it easier for officials to trace contaminated produce.

One has to ask why the “leafy green industry” did not what to have this passed?

Two central Vermont children have been hospitalized with apparent unrelated E. coli infections. A 5-year-old girl from Barre Town and a 3-year-old Randolph girl were being treated for kidney failure and remained on dialysis Monday. Both children were diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a disease caused by certain strains of E. coli. The severity of the two case was unusual, said state Epidemiologist Patricia Tassler.

A lawsuit was filed today against the Meat Market, a Fresno, California, business that was identified as the source of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in May. The lawsuit was filed by Seattle-based Marler Clark and San Diego-based Gordon & Holmes on behalf of Donald Jorgensen, an 80-year-old Fresno resident who became ill with an E. coli O157:H7 infection and was hospitalized for 15 days with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a complication of E. coli infection that caused his kidneys to fail, after eating “tri-tip” purchased from the Meat Market and served at a graduation party.

The lawsuit is the third meat-related E. coli lawsuit filed by Marler Clark in two weeks. The firm has also filed lawsuits against United Food Group in California, and PM Beef Holdings in Michigan. “The number of E. coli outbreaks traced to beef products in the last few months is disconcerting,” commented William Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark. “We haven’t seen millions of pounds of meat being recalled since 2002. I thought the beef industry had cleaned up, but there is obviously still a ways to go before people like Mr. Jorgensen can feel confident in the safety of the meat products they are eating.”

Mr. Jorgensen was one of 27 people who became ill with E. coli infections after eating tri-tip from the Meat Market in May. In April, Richwood Meat Co. of Merced, California, recalled 107,900 pounds of frozen ground beef products, and HFX, Inc., of South Claysburg, Pennsylvania, recalled 4,900 pounds of meat products. Both had been linked to E. coli outbreaks. In May, PM Beef Holdings of Windom, Minnesota, recalled 117,500 pounds of beef trim products, and Davis Creek Meats and Seafood of Kalamazoo, Michigan, recalled 129,000 pounds of beef products after their products were linked to E. coli outbreaks. Thus far in June, United Food Group of Vernon, California, has recalled 5.7 million pounds of ground beef since its products were traced as the source of an E. coli outbreak, and Tyson Fresh Meats of Sherman, Texas, has recalled 440,000 pounds of ground beef for possible E. coli contamination.

“Mr. Jorgensen is lucky to be alive,” Marler continued, “but like most HUS survivors, he has a long way to go before he’ll be out of the woods.”  See local new coverage – here

I spoke with Stephen J. Hedges, Chicago Tribune, last week about the alarming number of beef recalls and human illnesses over the last months.  His full report is here:

Food recalls related to ground beef and E. coli bacteria have reached levels not seen in several years, according to food safety experts, sickening 14 people in six Western states and raising concerns that meat production standards have slipped.

There have been eight recalls related to E. coli bacteria in food so far this year, compared with eight similar recalls for all of 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Seven of the eight E. coli-related recalls this year have involved ground beef, and several included other cuts of beef as well. The recalls have involved more than 6 million pounds of ground beef, according to the agency.

By comparison, the amount of ground beef recalled in all of 2006 was 156,235 pounds.

Recalls involving the E. coli strain O157:H7, a bacterium that lives in cow’s intestines, occur with more regularity in late spring and early summer, food experts say, when temperatures rise and more cattle appear to carry the bacteria, which the animals tolerate.

Contamination of meat occurs during slaughtering when feces and intestinal material may accidentally come into contact with portions of the carcass that are trimmed for retail beef cuts.

Serious illnesses have resulted from E. coli contamination recently. The USDA says that at least 14 people have fallen ill from E. coli in beef this year, but some environmental groups contend the number is as high as 38.

Government, meat industry and food safety officials say that there is no obvious reason for a rise in contamination this year.

“What’s significant right now is the size of the recalls and the number of consumers that have gotten sick because of this,” said William Marler, a Seattle attorney who represents E. coli victims who fell ill this year.