An E. coli lawsuit was filed today on behalf of a Denver-area child who became gravely ill with E. coli O157:H7 after eating refrigerated Nestle Toll House cookie dough. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the family of Madison Sedbrook by her attorneys, William Marler of the Seattle-based foodborne illness law firm Marler Clark and Kara Knowles of the Denver firm Montgomery, Little, Soran, & Murray.
Six-year-old Madison ate Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough several times in mid-April, 2009. She began to experience flu-like symptoms including fatigue, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Not knowing the source of her illness, she continued to eat Nestle cookie dough, and by the first week of May, she had abdominal cramps, fever, and bloody diarrhea. Over the next several weeks, the family sought medical care several times for Madison’s illness, which deepened in severity. She was admitted to the hospital and then released before being rushed back and admitted to pediatric intensive care. It was determined that Madison had hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a complication of her E. coli infection, which was not diagnosed until her second hospital stay. The genetic fingerprint of the E. coli O157:H7 found in her stool matches that of the nationwide outbreak tied to cookie dough.
“This child – and this family – have been through a terrible ordeal, not the least of which is how many times they sought care before E. coli was detected,” said Marler, who spoke from the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) convention.. “In order to detect and limit foodborne illness outbreaks, we have to make changes in our healthcare system; doctors and emergency health providers need to be encouraged to test for foodborne pathogens any time these symptoms – especially bloody diarrhea – are present.”
On Monday, the CDC released updated information on the nationwide outbreak, which now encompasses 70 ill in 30 states. Thirty people have been hospitalized, and 7 have developed HUS. Almost seventy percent of the victims are female and under the age of 19. Nestle USA has voluntarily recalled the product, and stopped production at the facility that made it and are cooperating with FDA and CDC to pinpoint the cause.
“State health departments did a great job of getting to the bottom of this outbreak, and getting the word out,” continued Marler. “But more resources are needed to speed the process up. Every day saved means dozens, maybe hundreds of families spared the Sedbrook family experience.”
ABOUT MARLER CLARK: William Marler has been a major force in food safety policy in the United States and abroad. His food safety blog, Marler Blog, is read by over 1,000,000 people around the world every year. He and his partners at Marler Clark have represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose contaminated products have caused serious injury and death. His advocacy for better food regulation has led to invitations to address local, national, and international gatherings on food safety, including recent testimony to US Congress Committee on Energy and Commerce. In 1998, Mr. Marler formed the not for profit, Outbreak Inc. He spends much of the year speaking on how to prevent foodborne illnesses.