In late July of 1999, Ohio public health officials began receiving reports that patients at local hospitals were suffering from E. coli O157:H7 infections. By August 2, 1999, fifteen cases had been confirmed, and through investigative interviews the Ohio Department of Health learned that eleven of those fifteen people had eaten foods purchased from KFC restaurants in southwestern Ohio counties in the week before becoming ill.
Marler Clark represented a woman who became ill with an E. coli infection and hemolytic uremic syndrome after eating foods purchased from a Cincinnati KFC restaurant. She was hospitalized for nearly a month with acute renal failure and other life-threatening complications and nearly died twice. As a result of her E. coli O157:H7 infection, the woman suffered permanent and irreversible injury to her kidneys, pancreas, heart, lungs, and brain. Her claim was resolved in 2001.
On June 30, 2002, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced the recall of 354,200 pounds of ground beef manufactured at the ConAgra Beef Company plant in Greeley, Colorado. The contaminated ground beef had been produced at the plant on May 31, thirty days prior to the recall, and was distributed nationally to retailers and institutions. On July 19, 2002, FSIS expanded the ConAgra ground beef recall to 18.6 million pounds of ground beef. In the weeks that followed the nationwide recall, more than 45 people in 23 states reported illnesses linked to the contaminated ground beef.
Marler Clark represented 23 victims of the ConAgra E. coli outbreak, which led to at least 46 illnesses and one death. Among the victims was the death of an Ohio childcare worker, a Colorado security officer who was battling forest fires, and young children in Colorado, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Several of them were hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a frightening complication of E. coli O157:H7 infection that can lead to kidney failure and neurological impairment. Their claims were resolved in 2004.
On August 8, 2008 Nebraska Beef recalled an additional 1.2 million pounds of meat after a cluster of Boston illnesses was traced to Whole Foods, whose processor, Coleman Natural Meats, purchased the meat from Nebraska Beef. As many as 30 illnesses are reported in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Canada.
On August 14, Nebraska Beef added another 160,000 pounds to the recall, bringing the total to 1.36 million pounds. Numerous stores and supermarkets have initiated voluntary recalls. 49 confirmed cases have been linked both epidemiologically and by molecular fingerprinting to the first part of this outbreak, 21 in Michigan and 20 in Ohio, 4 in Georgia, and one each in New York, Kentucky, Indiana, and Utah. Onset of illness in these patients occurred from 5/27/08 to 7/1/08. Twenty-seven ill persons have been hospitalized. One patient has developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). Kroger initiated a voluntary recall on June 27, but did not name their meat supplier.
Marler Clark filed the first lawsuit stemming from the outbreak on the morning of June 30. Late that night, the FSIS announced that the tainted meat had been traced back to Nebraska Beef Products, and a recall of 531,707 pounds of ground beef products was initiated. On July 2, the Kroger recall widened to 20 states. On July 3, the Nebraska Beef recall was widened to include 5.3 million pounds.