A confidential settlement was reached this morning on behalf of twelve-year-old Rebecca Gosla, who was sickened in a 2007 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to contaminated ground beef that were manufactured by United Foods. Rebecca’s illness stands apart from most E. coli O157:H7 infections, even for children who develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).  She was hospitalized for over a month, suffered weeks of dialysis, and her medical bills were nearly $200,000.

The severity and duration of her HUS-related complications, including the complete failure of kidney function as indicated by the lack of urine-production, makes Rebecca’s prognosis concerning. It is possible that her kidney-function will decline over time to a point that kidney transplantation or maintenance-dialysis will be necessary for her survival.

Rebecca’s Illness was a result of E. coli O157:H7-tainted hamburger that was part of a recall announced on June 3, 2007 by United Food Group, LLC (“United Foods”). 75,000 pounds of ground beef products was recalled after testing conducted by health departments in California and Colorado revealed contamination with E. coli O157:H7. The company reported that the ground beef had been produced on April 20, 2007 and shipped to retail distribution centers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Utah. Three days later, on June 6, 2007, United Foods expanded its recall to 370,000 pounds of ground beef. Investigation by the CDC and state health department had uncovered a link between United Foods’ ground beef and illnesses “in several states.” The expanded recall included products produced on April 13, in addition to April 20, 2007. Additional states were now also involved, including Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Washington, and Wyoming.

Three days later, on June 9, 2007, United Foods was again forced to expand its recall, this time dramatically enlarging its scope. More United foods fresh ground beef, not originally included in the recall, had tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 in Arizona. The strain of E. coli O157:H7 isolated was genetically indistinguishable from the strain that had led to the original recall. The newly recalled ground beef tested in the Arizona had been sold under a major grocery store label as opposed to a pre-packaged chub shipped from United Foods. At this time, United expanded its recall to include 5.7 million pounds of its ground beef. The recall now extended to both fresh and frozen ground beef. By this time, United Foods ground beef had been linked to fourteen culture-confirmed E. coli O157:H7 infections in the following states: Arizona (6); California, (3); Colorado (2); Idaho (1); Utah (1); and Wyoming (1).

It is time to prevent the next Rebecca.