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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Michigan and Ohio E. coli Illnesses Linked to Kroger Near 50 – Lawsuit on Tap for Monday in Ohio

According to Sarah Tompkins of the Detroit Free Press, the search for bad ground beef is now down to 2 Kroger suppliers. Wouldn’t it be sweet justice if the source of this outbreak winds up being Nebraska Beef – recently famous for suing a church in upstate Minnesota.  You must read the New York Times piece – "Out of a Church Kitchen and Into the Courts."  My favorite quotes:

Denis W. Stearns, a Seattle lawyer who represents Mr. Hawkinson and Ms. Wheeler, said it was unusual but not unprecedented for a meat company to sue the victims. His colleague, Bill Marler, is less diplomatic, calling Nebraska Beef’s lawsuit “one of the boldest, yet boneheaded, moves I have ever seen.”

As for suing the church, Mr. Gordon argued that the smorgasbord wasn’t a casual family dinner, but a money-making project for the church that was open to anyone willing to pay the freight.

“When you are running it as a money-making venture, why should you be any different from McDonald’s?” Mr. Gordon said. “Nobody is suing the old ladies, to use your term. In the same way that when McDonald’s gets sued, no one sues the nice teenage kid behind the counter.”

At least not yet.

According to Ms. Tompkins, as of Friday evening, health officials in Michigan and Ohio reported 47 confirmed and suspected cases of E. coli O157:H7.  Eleven Michiganders were hospitalized, including one treated for kidney failure (HUS).

It is concerning as of this date, Kroger and the FSIS are unable to say which of two suppliers are the source of the E. coli contamination.  Frankly, there are only a couple of reasons for that:  1) Kroger’s record keeping of its meat purchase and grinding records make it unclear which producer supplied meat on what day to which store, and 2) that contamination occurred at Kroger’s itself (not likely, but possible.  Perhaps our lawsuit on Monday will shake loose the answer.