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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

E. coli strikes again in Utah

Andrew Weeks of the Standard-Examiner reports that at least five more people, two of them children, have contracted E. coli from an unknown source in Weber County, according to officials from the Weber-Morgan Health Department. No common food source has been linked to the bacteria, though officials say there seem to be no ties to an outbreak that occurred June 27-30, when at least five other people contracted infections, either directly or indirectly, from tainted lettuce served from a North Ogden Wendy’s restaurant.

It will be interesting to follow this story as it unfolds. At least one of the two children mentioned by Mr. Weeks is in fact hospitalized and suffering acute kidney failure (HUS).

It was determined that the June outbreak was caused by iceberg lettuce that likely had been contaminated while grown in the Salinas Valley, Calif. Wendy’s, at 2594 N. 400 East in North Ogden, served lettuce at a CORE Academy luncheon held at Orion Junior High in Harrisville on June 30, where more than 300 people were potentially exposed to the contamination.  At least on person was infected during June 27030 while eating at the restaurant.

Although for purposes of the lawsuit that has been filed against Wendy’s stemming from the June outbreak, where three people suffered Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, where and when the lettuce was contaminated means little, I do believe that there is not sufficient evidence at this point to rule out that the lettuce became contaminated AFTER it arrived in Utah.  Wendy’s was implicated in a 2000 outbreak were cross-contamination between raw meat and lettuce was determined to be the source.  (See coverage of that 2000 Wendy’s E. coli outbreak.)