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Food Poison Journal

Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Severe E. coli Illnesses in Oregon, Washington and Kentucky

t has been a very hard week in the Pacific Northwest as we have heard about two youngsters killed by E. coli O157:H7 and at least two others severely sickened with potentially life-threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).  Families and health investigators are trying to find any possible connection and explanation for what has happened.

Aubrie Utter, age 3 – Hospitalized for a week, HUS, 5 blood transfusions

Brad Sutton, age 5 – Still hospitalized, HUS, Dialysis

Serena Profitt, age 4 – HUS, Death

Brooklyn Hoksbergen, age 3 – HUS, Death

And, then there are the five young Kentucky children, or more, being treated at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville for HUS, and the state health department has launched an investigation into how they got sick. Three of the sick children are from Hardin County, one is from Oldham County and one is from Boone County.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of E. coli outbreaks and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The E. coli lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other foodborne illness infections and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our E. coli lawyers have litigated E. coli and HUS cases stemming from outbreaks traced to ground beef, raw milk, lettuce, spinach, sprouts, and other food products.  The law firm has brought E. coli lawsuits against such companies as Jack in the Box, Dole, ConAgra, Cargill, and Jimmy John’s.  We have proudly represented such victims as Brianne Kiner, Stephanie Smith and Linda Rivera.

Salmonella Tomatoes Again

Taylor Farms is issuing a recall of some lots of tomatoes and salad kits that include them because they may be contaminated with Salmonella.

Taylor Farms of Tracy issued the voluntary recall Saturday night for Expo Fresh Roma tomatoes shipped to Costco locations in Los Angeles and Hawthorne in California, Tacoma and Lynwood in Washington, and Las Vegas in Nevada. Only tomatoes listed as packed on September 5 or September 6 are affected.

The recall also includes Sicilian Vegetable Salad served at deli counters at Safeway, Vons and Pavilions grocery stores in California, Nevada and Arizona with use-by dates of September 20 and September 21. The kits for the salad contained the tomatoes.

The company says the Salmonella was found in routine testing. No illnesses have yet been reported.

E. coli Outbreak Strikes Kentucky

According to the Kentucky Health Department, five Kentucky children have been diagnosed with Hemolytic-uremic syndrome, or HUS, likely caused by E. coli O157:H7.

The Department for Public Health said there are three cases in Hardin County and one each in Nelson and Oldham Counties. All the children are currently hospitalized.

Kosair Children’s Hospital released this statement at noon on September 13:

Several children from several different counties in Kentucky are being treated for hemolytic uremic syndrome at Kosair Children’s Hospital. In children, this syndrome is most often caused by E. coli O157:H7 infection. We have notified the state health department, which has begun an investigation.

All about Clostridium Botulinum ( Botulism )

WHAT IS BOTULISM?

Botulism is a rare but potentially life-threatening bacterial illness. Clostridium Botulinum bacteria grows on food and produces toxins that, when ingested, cause paralysis. Botulism poisoning is extremely rare, but so dangerous that each case is considered a public health emergency. Studies have shown that there is a 35 to 65 percent chance of death for patients who are not treated immediately and effectively with botulism antitoxin.

Infant botulism is the most common form of botulism. See below for symptoms specific to infant botulism.

Most of the botulism cases reported each year come from foods that are not canned properly at home. Botulism from commercially canned food is rare, but commercial canned chili products were identified as the source of a botulism outbreak in 2007.

SYMPTOMS OF BOTULISM

Botulism neurotoxins prevent neurotransmitters from functioning properly. This means that they inhibit motor control. As botulism progresses, the patient experiences paralysis from top to bottom, starting with the eyes and face and moving to the throat, chest, and extremities. When paralysis reaches the chest, death from inability to breathe results unless the patient is ventilated. Symptoms of botulism generally appear 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food.  With treatment, illness lasts from 1 to 10 days.  Full recovery from botulism poisoning can take weeks to months.  Some people never fully recover.

In general, symptoms of botulism poisoning include the following:

Nausea
Vomiting
Fatigue
Dizziness
Double vision
Dry skin, mouth and throat
Drooping eyelids
Difficulty swallowing
Slurred speech
Muscle Weakness
Body Aches
Paralysis
Lack of fever

Infant botulism takes on a different form. Symptoms in an infant include lethargy, poor appetite, constipation, drooling, drooping eyelids, a weak cry, and paralysis.

LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF BOTULISM

The majority of botulism patients never fully recover their pre-illness health. After three months to a year of recovery, persisting side-effects are most likely permanent. These long-term effects most often include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, dry mouth, and difficulty performing strenuous tasks. Patients also report a generally less happy and peaceful psychological state than before their illness.

BOTULISM DIAGNOSIS

If a patient displays symptoms of botulism, a doctor will most likely take a blood, stool, or gastric secretion sample. The most common test for botulism is injecting the patient’s blood into a mouse to see whether the mouse displays signs of botulism, since other testing methods take up to a week.

Sometimes botulism can be difficult to diagnose, since symptoms can be mild, or confused with those of Guillan-Barre Syndrome.

TREATMENT OF BOTULISM

If found early, botulism can be treated with an antitoxin that blocks circulation of the toxin in the bloodstream. This prevents the patient’s case from worsening, but recovery still takes several weeks.

PREVENTION OF BOTULISM

Since botulism poisoning most commonly comes from foods improperly canned at home, the most important step in preventing botulism is to follow proper canning procedure. Ohio State University’s Extension Service provides a useful guide to sanitary canning techniques.

Further botulism prevention techniques include:

Not eating canned food if the container is bulging or if it smells bad, although not all strains on Clostridium Botulinum smell
Storing garlic or herb-infused oil in the refrigerator
Not storing baked potatoes at room temperature
To prevent infant botulism, do not give even a small amount of honey to an infant, as honey is one source of infant botulism.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Botulism outbreaks. The Botulism lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Botulism and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Botulism lawyers have litigated Botulism cases stemming from outbreaks traced to carrot juice and chili.