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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Wendy’s E. coli Outbreak in Utah

Well after spending most of last week in Salt Lake City mediating, and resolving, spinach-related E. coli O157:H7 cases, I find myself heading back to Salt Lake City Sunday afternoon to work on a little-reported Wendy’s E. coli outbreak, this time E. coli O121:H19.  Here is the very sad story:

In early August 2006, public health officials in Weber County, Utah, became aware of several people who attended a teachers’ conference luncheon that had contracted E. coli O121:H19. On August 2, 2006, the Weber-Morgan Health Department (WMHD) issued a News Release indicating that three people had contracted E. coli O121:H19, and that two of the individuals had developed HUS. WMHD stated that the evidence indicated that all three people contracted E. coli from the same source sometime during June 27-30 at a restaurant in the Ogden, Utah area. By August 7, WMHD officials had revised the number of outbreak victims to four, including three who had developed HUS. We represent all the HUS victims, two of which are some of the more severely injured E. coli victims I have represented since the Jack-in-the-Box outbreak of 1993.

WMHD further concluded that the source of the contamination was possibly iceberg lettuce prepared at the Wendy’s Restaurant at 2500 North 400 East in North Ogden, Utah. One of the patients with confirmed HUS who had not attended the teacher’s conference had eaten cheeseburgers with iceberg lettuce at the Wendy’s Restaurant during the outbreak period. The second confirmed HUS case was an attendee of the teachers’ conference, and a third case of HUS was determined to be secondary transmission from an infected person at the conference. Eventually, WMHD determined that at least 69 people had become ill in the outbreak. Of the sixty-nine people who reportedly became ill, four remained hospitalized and were in serious condition.

Three of the HUS patients with E. coli O121:H19 were laboratory confirmed by stool culture. DNA subtyping by Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) showed that one of the individuals that was not associated with the conference, but who had consumed cheeseburgers from Wendy’s during the outbreak period, was an identical genetic match to one of the previous confirmed E. coli cases associated with Wendy’s.