August 2006

I expect soon to receive the below email commenting on the recent tragic death and thirty illnesses tied E. coli contaminated hamburger served at a Minnesota church dinner:

“It is not the failure of the Meat Industry in not keeping cattle feces out of hamburger that sickened the people. It is the fault of the person who handled and cooked the hamburger that was fed at the church dinner.”

At first I will calmly try to respond to the person that the Meat Industry that makes a profit off of selling “USDA Inspected Meat” can not blame the consumer if the product actually contains a pathogen that can severely sicken or kill. I will then point out the fact that this deadly form of E. coli, E. coli O157:H7, is not supposed to be in hamburger in the first place – the USDA has a “zero tolerance” policy for this nasty bug. And I will argue that there is no other product in the United States manufacturers would expect consumers to “fix” before they use it.
The reply to my calm response will be something to the effect of, “the consumer should know that meat may contain bacteria and they are told to cook it.”

Continue Reading E. coli and the Church Picnic

Marler Clark has seen an increase in business recently, and in light of the current E. coli outbreak in Minnesota, I think that increase might be courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture. This is the agency that is responsible for, among other things, testing ground beef to ensure that the consuming public has a product free from E. coli O157:H7. What the agency has done, however, is slowly but surely erode the very testing mechanisms and requirements that are our protection against this lethal foodborne bacterium.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDOH), which was instrumental in detecting last fall’s large-scale outbreak involving Dole lettuce, recently reported that at least seventeen Longville-area people have been confirmed to be suffering from E. coli infections in the last six weeks. The illnesses were caused by E. coli-contaminated ground beef. One woman died as a result, and the MDOH suspects that the number of victims is likely more than thirty. Additionally, meat companies from Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee, and Virginia have all recalled E. coli-contaminated ground beef in the last month. To its credit, USDA testing was responsible for three of these recalls.
But with a bug as dangerous as E. coli O157:H7, the USDA cannot be satisfied with the occasional recall. It has both the technology and capability to do much more to prevent E. coli from entering our meat supply.

Continue Reading USDA Fails – Miserably – To Protect Public from E. coli

Recently at the 93rd annual meeting for the International Association for Food Protection in Calgary, Alberta, Canada I spoke on: “Making Foods Safer: How Outbreaks Can Influence Change,” on the topic of whether litigation helps food safety in the United States. I also spoke on the topic of raw milk consumption and sale, addressing legal issues regarding the sale of raw milk. Finally, I spoke on: “International Food Law – A Global Overview,” on the topic of key food safety legislation and enforcement practices in the United States.
Founded in 1911, IAFP is a non-profit association of food safety professionals. IAFP strives to keep members informed of the latest scientific, technical, and practical developments in food safety and sanitation, and publishes two scientific journals: Food Protection Trends and Journal of Food Protection.
All in all it was a great conference.

Lois Collins of the Deseret Morning News has reported more on the Wendy’s outbreak:

Wendy’s restaurant chain is being sued by a Weber County family after the Weber-Morgan Health Department identified a North Ogden Wendy’s as the probable link in four confirmed E. coli infections in June.
Seattle law firm Marler Clark and Salt Lake attorney Todd Gardner of Bateman Goodman and Gardner filed the lawsuit Friday in Weber County District Court on behalf of William and J. Corey Cohron and their two sons.
According to William Marler, the complaint seeks “compensation for the family’s significant medical-related expenses, economic losses, pain and suffering and emotional distress.”
The complaint filed by Marler Clark says that Corey Cohron ate a Wendy’s salad at the conference and later became ill with symptoms of E. coli infection, including diarrhea. Other family members subsequently developed symptoms as well, most of them not requiring medical treatment. But Wil Cohron, 7, suffered severe infection and was taken to an emergency room July 12. He was in the hospital for two days. He later was rehospitalized and tested positive for E. coli.

A MOTHER whose toddler daughter almost died after contracting the E.coli bug has issued a warning for parents to be vigilant.
The 29-year-old woman and her 18-month-old daughter were both admitted to South Tyneside District Hospital in April with the 0157 strain of the infection.
The youngster’s condition worsened and she was diagnosed with Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome, which caused her whole body to shut down and her kidneys to fail.

Continue Reading The below says it all about the risk of visiting Petting Zoos

Marler Clark today filed a lawsuit against Wendy’s, the Dublin, Ohio-based restaurant chain whose North Ogden, Utah, restaurant was traced as the source of an E. coli O121:H19 outbreak in late June, 2006. Marler Clark filed the lawsuit on behalf of Weber County residents William and J. Corey Cohron and their two young sons. The complaint, which was filed in Weber County Superior Court, seeks compensation for the family’s significant medical-related expenses, economic losses, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Todd Gardner, a partner in Bateman Goodwin & Gardner, is serving as local counsel on the case.

Sean Markey
for National Geographic News
August 7, 2006
The bacteria that cause a common food-borne illness show low drug resistance in Australia, unlike similar strains from the United States and Europe, a study has found.
Scientists behind the finding say Australia’s de facto ban on certain antibiotics in poultry and other livestock helps explain why.

Continue Reading Food Bacteria More Drug-Resistant in U.S., Europe, Study Suggests

The below is the Press Release directly from the Weber-Morgan Health Department. Although the vector of the illnesses seems to be lettuce, it is most likely that the cause was not directly lettuce, but cross-contamination between hamburger and lettuce – See earlier post Another Wendy’s E. coli Outbreak?
Weber-Morgan Health Department (Utah)
AUGUST 7, 2006
Infectious Agent: E. coli O121:H19
The Weber-Morgan Health Department confirms that four people have contracted an E.coli O121:H19 infection with three of these people developing the more severe case of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Based upon the findings of our investigation, we have concluded that the probable source of the contamination was iceberg lettuce prepared at the Wendy’s Restaurant at 2500 N. 400 E. in North Ogden.

Continue Reading E. coli O121:H19 – unique strain of a nasty bug

It is interesting that of the four confirmed cases, three developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), a severe, life-threatening complication of an E. coli O157:H7 bacterial infection. Although most people recover from an E. coli O157:H7 infection, about 5-10% of infected individuals goes on to develop HUS. If 5-10% develop HUS, one would think that the outbreak involving Wendy’s would have some fifty to seventy-five sick people rather than just four.
An article by Brandy A. Lee of the Desert Morning News is below:


Restaurant lettuce the apparent culprit at June gathering?
The Weber-Morgan Health Department confirmed Monday four people were infected with E. coli bacteria in June following a conference held at Orion Junior High in Harrisville.
Three of those people developed a more severe case of hemolytic uremic syndrome, the health department said.

Continue Reading Three Stricken with HUS in Wendy’s Outbreak

A story by Reed Cowan of ABC4 finally named Wendy’s as the source that exposed 100 people to E. Coli at convention. From the article:

An E. Coli outbreak in North Ogden has health department officials pointing fingers at a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant.
It happened in June when some three hundred educators were attending a conference at a junior high in Harrisville. One of the days Wendy’s catered the event. The health department investigation concluded that iceberg lettuce from Wendy’s was the common denominator in three confirmed cases and a number of other unconfirmed cases.
A Wendy’s representative told ABC 4 News, “We are very saddened that apparently people got sick eating the lettuce from one of our restaurants. When situations arise we will always do the right thing for our customers.”
Gwen Hadley with the Weber Morgan Health Department told ABC 4 News one of the victims became so ill she couldn’t speak. However, officials say the illnesses and infections have run their course and there is no risk of further infection.