2007 was a record year for hamburger-related food safety recalls – over 20 individual recalls involving over 33 million pounds of meat. Because of the failure of the beef industry and government to protect the public, the law firm of Marler and Clark has approved a project to commission a baseline study to determine the prevalence of non-O157:H7 pathogenic shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC) in retail ground beef.

Non-O157 STEC are capable of causing the same debilitating triad of diseases as E. coli O157:H7, including hemorrhagic colitis, hemolytic uremic syndrome, and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. Infection with the non-O157 STEC can result in death in children, the elderly and the immunocompromised. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of reported cases of illnesses caused by this group of pathogenic E. coli has been steadily increasing over the past several years. Despite this, Non-O157:H7 STEC is not considered an adulterant under current law in the U.S.

Non-O157:H7 STEC are also known to occur in imported beef from several trading partners, yet the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has not required that imported beef be free of these pathogens. The Agency has also failed to devise steps to measure and control the presence of these pathogens in domestic beef production and the ground beef supply, at the slaughterhouse or the grocery store.

The law firm of Marler and Clark will take the unprecedented step of commissioning a baseline study to determine the prevalence of these organisms in the United States ground beef supply. During the one-year course of the study a total of 5,000 samples will be analyzed for the presence of these organisms. Positive samples will be archived and the genetic fingerprints of the isolates will be provided to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the relevant sample information including the type of ground beef, place of purchase and date of purchase.

Since the 1993 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak tied to the Jack-in-the-Box restaurant chain, the Attorneys at Marler Clark have been at the forefront of foodborne illness litigation in the Untied States. In addition to representing victims of foodborne illness, several times a month the attorneys at Marler Clark, through the not for profit www.outbreakinc.com, speak to industry and government throughout the United States, Canada, China, England and Australia on why it is important to prevent foodborne illnesses. They are also frequent commentators on food litigation and food safety on www.marlerblog.com and they also sponsors several websites related to E. coli, including www.about-ecoli.com, www.about-hus.com, www.ecoliblog.com and www.ecolilitigation.com.  For further contact: Bill Marler, bmarler@marlerclark.com, 1-206-346-1890.