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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

E. coli outbreak traced to lettuce – Hawaii ranchers urged to prevent crop tainting

Jan TenBruggencate of the Honolulu Advertiser reported on the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak tied to Kaua’i grown lettuce. Interestingly, we had been contacted by one of the ill tourists after they were released from the hospital and returned home from Hawaii.  It is not too difficult to tie lettuce grown near cattle production as the ultimate cause of this outbreak – we have seen this before in multiple outbreaks.

Hawaii State health officials conducted a months-long investigation to find the cause of an E. coli bacterial infection that hospitalized four tourists and sickened four others on Kaua’i in March.
Their conclusion: All eight people were most likely infected by eating contaminated lettuce from a Kaua’i farm, where heavy rains and flooding had carried E. coli bacteria from a cattle pasture onto the lettuce patch. Officials declined to name the farm they suspect was the source of the lettuce.
The state Department of Health said that the eight victims, including the four who required hospital care, have recovered without complications from the outbreak of a strain of E. coli O157, whose symptoms include abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea and which in severe cases can cause kidney failure.

In a nationwide E. coli O157 outbreak
last year involving California bagged spinach, nearly 200 people were affected and one (actually 5) died. In another outbreak of E. coli O157 in November and December, several dozen in five states became ill from infections associated with a fast-food restaurant chain (actually Taco Bell).  When the cluster of bacterial infections appeared on Kaua’i, the source of the illness was not clear. The victims included seven tourists from five states, and one Kaua’i resident.