The Dole Company, Inc., whose ready-to-eat salads have recently been linked to a large E. coli outbreak and multiple hospitalizations, was named as defendant in a lawsuit filed today by Leonard and Carol Tvedten of Fairmont, Minnesota. (Federal Cause No. 05-CV-2404) William Marler, the nationally-known attorney who has represented victims of large E. coli outbreaks for more than a decade, is the Tvedten’s attorney. Marler’s firm, called Marler Clark, is located in Seattle and has represented Minnesota residents in past outbreaks, including the 2000 SuperValu E. coli outbreak. Jardine, Logan, and O’Brien, a respected Minnesota law firm, also represents the Tvedten’s.
Carol Tvedten fell ill with gastrointestinal symptoms in mid-September after eating Dole brand salad”the pre-washed variety”at home with her husband. Leonard Tvedten also fell ill, but did not require hospitalization. Mrs. Tvedten was admitted at Fairmont Medical Center-Mayo Health System on September 28, where she would remain for over a week. Ultimately, tests confirmed that the strain of E. coli that had infected Carole Tvedten was precisely the same as the strain that health officials cultured from Dole lettuce samples.
The first nationwide health alert to warn the public of the Dole lettuce outbreak was issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on October 2, 2005. The alert stated that certain pre-packaged Dole salad products”Classic Romaine, American Blend, and Greener Selection””have been associated with an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Minnesota.” The FDA has since reported that as many as 245,000 bags of Dole lettuce may have been contaminated with the lethal bacteria.
E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks associated with lettuce or spinach, specifically the “pre-washed” and “ready-to-eat” varieties sold under various brand and trade names, are by no means a new phenomenon. In October 2003, 13 residents of a California retirement center were sickened and 2 died after eating E. coli-contaminated “pre-washed” spinach. In September 2003, nearly 40 patrons of a California restaurant chain became ill after eating salads prepared with bagged, “pre-washed” lettuce. In July 2002, over 50 young women were stricken with E. coli at a dance camp after eating “pre-washed” lettuce, leaving several hospitalized, and 1 with life-long kidney damage. The Center for Science in the Public Interest found that of 225 food-poisoning outbreaks from 1990 to 1998, nearly 20 percent (55 outbreaks) were linked to fresh fruits, vegetables or salads.