An E. coli lawsuit was filed today against Baugher’s Orchard and Farm, the Westminster, Maryland farm that recalled its unpasteurized apple cider products after they were identified by Maryland public health authorities as the source of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak among at least 7 state residents. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Baltimore resident Nicholas Fickel. Mr. Fickel visited Baugher’s Orchard and Farm in Westminster on October 17. While there, he consumed samples of Baugher’s unpasteurized apple cider and purchased cider to take home with him. On October 21, Mr. Fickel became ill with symptoms of E. coli infection, including painful stomach cramping and bloody diarrhea. He sought medical treatment for his worsening illness on October 22. A stool sample submitted for lab testing at that time tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, which was also isolated from 6 other Maryland residents who had consumed the Baugher’s unpasteurized apple cider.
Apple cider and other fruit and vegetable juices can be contaminated with E. coli before processing. E. coli outbreaks have been traced to fresh apple cider even when steps such as brushing and washing apples have been taken to reduce the opportunity for bacterial contamination. The use of “down” apples, or apples that have fallen to the ground before being harvested, is a risk factor for E. coli contamination since animals – like deer – that shed E. coli can forage for food in orchard areas and fruit can fall in animal feces as it drops from trees.