The first lawsuit stemming from the current E. coli O157:H7 (E. coli) recall by JBS Swift Beef Company of Greeley, Colorado that has been linked to 23 E. coli illnesses in California, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Wisconsin was filed today on behalf of an Albuquerque-area child who was infected with E. coli after eating kabobs prepared by his grandmother on Mother’s Day. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the family of 14 year old Alex Roerick by his attorneys, William Marler of the Seattle-based foodborne illness law firm Marler Clark and Kara Knowles of the Denver firm Montgomery, Little, Soran, & Murray.
Alex ate dinner with his grandma on May 10, 2009. He began to experience flu-like symptoms including fatigue, fever, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting by May 13. Alex’s symptoms worsened and he was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital on May 15. He was released several days later, before being rushed back again due to severe bloody diarrhea. His doctors determined that Alex had developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a devastating complication of his E. coli O157:H7 infection. The genetic fingerprint of the E. coli found in Alex’s stool matches that of others sickened in the nationwide outbreak tied to recalled JBS Swift Beef. He continues to experience effects of his illness.
“JBS Swift and the FSIS were much too slow about releasing information on where the beef was distributed,” said Marler. “Even with widespread consumer pressure, the information was only released a day before the 4th of July holiday, not nearly enough time to get the word out to families that might have the contaminated meat in their homes. Our government agencies need to work faster in recall situations to prevent more people from suffering what Alex and his family have experienced.”
In the early morning hours of Sunday, June 28, the JBS Swift Beef Company expanded its earlier recall of 41,280 pounds of beef contaminated with the highly toxic pathogen E. coli to include an additional 380,000 pounds. The beef recalls are FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service) Class I, meaning that the "use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death." After years of large recalls, focused efforts by meat regulators brought down E. coli contamination recalls to a low of 182,000 pounds in 2006. Recalls shot up again in 2007, and in the ensuing years (2007-2009), over 41 million pounds of beef have been recalled due to contamination with E. coli.
ABOUT MARLER CLARK: William Marler has been a major force in food safety policy in the United States and abroad. His food safety blog, Marler Blog, is read by over 1,000,000 people around the world every year. He and his partners at Marler Clark have represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose contaminated products have caused serious injury and death. His advocacy for better food regulation has led to invitations to address local, national, and international gatherings on food safety, including recent testimony to US Congress Committee on Energy and Commerce. In 1998, Mr. Marler formed the not for profit, Outbreak Inc. He spends much of the year speaking on how to prevent foodborne illnesses.