Minnesota E. coli cases match those in Iowa; distinct from cases in Northeast U.S.

According to both the Minnesota and Iowa Health Departments at least five cases of E. coli O157 infection in people who ate at Taco John’s restaurants in Albert Lea and Austin share the same genetic fingerprint as cases from a similar outbreak in Iowa.

“This is a strong indication that we are dealing with a common food source,” said Kirk Smith, supervisor of food-borne disease investigations at the Minnesota Department of Health. “Right now, our epidemiological evidence points to lettuce as the most likely source for the E. coli, but we are continuing to investigate and to work with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Iowa officials to determine a source more exactly.”

Minnesota now has 27 cases of E. coli infection associated with the outbreak. The cases are almost evenly divided between those who ate meals at Taco John’s restaurant in Albert Lea and those who ate at the Austin restaurant.

This outbreak has sickened at least 50 in Iowa is still ongoing and involves the two state health departments, their public health labs (University of Iowa Hygienic Lab in Iowa), Black Hawk County in Iowa, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and the Food and Drug Administration in Washington D.C.

Cedar Falls parents sue Taco John’s over E. coli case

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The parents of a 9-year-old girl hospitalized for E. coli-related kidney complications after eating a soft shell taco from a Cedar Falls Taco John’s sued the restaurant chain in federal court Thursday.

In Iowa, Autumn Saul, is one of at least 18 people who have been hospitalized with health problems blamed on E. coli.  Her parents, Ryan and Angela Saul, of Cedar Falls, became the first to take legal action against the company, saying their daughter fell ill three days after eating at Taco John’s.  After her conditioned worsened, Autumn Saul was transported to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, in Iowa City, and diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome, according to the lawsuit. HUS is a condition often linked to E. coli poisoning that can cause temporary and permanent kidney failure and effects about 20 percent of children exposed to E. coli.

“The good news is she had a blood transfusion (Wednesday), her condition has improved and as a result we’re hopeful she will be home before the weekend is over,” said David Babcock, an attorney with Seattle-based Marler Clark, a law firm that specializes in food-borne illness cases.  Marler Clark has already contacted other families and victims in Iowa and Minnesota and expects to file additional lawsuits in both states, said Bill Marler, whose firm gained attention when it represented hundreds of people who ate contaminated hamburgers at Jack in the Box restaurants in 1993.