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Food Poison Journal

Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Spokane Resident Sickened By E. Coli Tainted Clover Sprouts After Consuming a Sandwich from Pita Pit

This is third lawsuit filed against Evergreen Sprouts after 18 were infected with E. coli

Attorney Bill Marler of Marler Clark, the nation’s only law firm dedicated to representing victims of foodborne illness, has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington at Spokane on behalf of Wilson R. Criscione, a Spokane County resident sickened with Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121. The infection is linked to the recent E. coli outbreak due to raw clover sprouts produced by Evergreen Sprouts LLC of Moyie Springs, Idaho.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a total of 18 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121 have been reported from five states. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Idaho (3), Michigan (1), Montana (2), Utah (1), and Washington (11). Forty-four percent of ill persons have been hospitalized.

Epidemiologic investigation has shown that the contaminated clover sprouts were served at multiple restaurant locations, including Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Daanen’s Delicatessen, and Pita Pit, from which the plaintiff was infected. The FDA conducted an inspection of the Evergreen Fresh Sprouts facility and observed a number of unsanitary conditions. Health officials from the Washington State Department of Health and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare have advised people not to consume raw clover sprouts manufactured and distributed by Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, located in Idaho.

On or about May 1, 2014, Wilson R. Criscione purchased and consumed a sandwich at the Pita Pit in Spokane, WA. On or about May 8, 2014, he also purchased and consumed a sandwich at the Jimmy John’s in Spokane. The sandwiches contained E. coli O121 tainted clover sprouts that had been manufactured and sold by Evergreen Sprouts.

The onset of Mr. Criscione’s symptoms occurred on or about May 9, 2014. Symptoms included excruciating stomach cramps, diarrhea, which eventually turned bloody, and other gastrointestinal problems. When he sought medical treatment, a stool sample was submitted and ultimately tested positive for E. coli. Mr. Criscione is currently continuing in his recovery from this illness.

“According to the FDA’s own 1999 advisory, Recommendations on Sprouted Seeds, sprouts have been increasingly implicated in foodborne outbreaks,” says Marler. “The time has come to label sprouts as potentially hazardous.”

As far back as September 1998, the FDA and CDC issued a warning against sprouts urging children, pregnant women, and the elderly that they should not eat alfalfa sprouts until growers find a way to reduce the risk of E. coli. They also warned that any people with weakened immune systems should avoid eating sprouts as well.

Although sprouts are often considered a “health food,” the warm, humid conditions needed for growing sprouts from seeds are also ideal for bacteria to flourish. Salmonella, E. coli, and other bacteria can grow to high levels without affecting the appearance of the sprouts.

Researchers have treated both seeds and sprouts with heat or washed them in solutions of chlorine, alcohol, and other chemicals. Some of these disinfectants reduced the levels of bacteria, but a potential hazard remained, especially for persons with weak immune systems. High temperatures that would kill the bacteria on the seeds would also keep them from sprouting.

“Until an effective way is found to prevent illness from sprouts, they should be eaten with caution, if at all,” says Marler. “In my experience, it is safest just to rid them from your diet altogether.”

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.

 

Marler Clark Retained to Investigate E. coli O157 Outbreak on Minnesota Chippewa Reservation

22 sickened so far; Source of illnesses likely Elders Picnic on July 17

 Marler Clark, a Seattle-based law firm specializing in food safety, has been retained to investigate the source of an E. coli O157 outbreak on the Fond du Lac Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation near Duluth, MN. Robert Danielson, a resident of Cloquet in Carlton County, reached out to Marler Clark after becoming one of now 22 people sickened in the outbreak.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced earlier this week that it was investigating the illnesses as well —which reportedly first began on July 17. With several recent community events on the reservation—powwows, picnics, potlucks, and outdoor meetings—it has been difficult to nail down the source.

Working with MDH, Marler Clark’s own investigative team, which includes epidemiologists who are well-trained in finding the causes of foodborne outbreaks, is now in the process of confirming the source: the Elders Picnic held on July 11 at the gymnasium of the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School.  Within days of the picnic, multiple tribal members, including Danielson, fell ill.  Danielson’s illness eventually required emergency medical attention.

Often, finding the source of a foodborne illness outbreak can be challenging even when a common event or location can be isolated. In this case, there were several events that fell within the window of infection that those who became ill attended. Add to this, like most close-knit communities, all of these events involved food either made by a caterer or brought in potluck-style.

“Weddings, picnics, potlucks, parties—they’re all notorious breeding grounds for foodborne illness,” said Bill Marler, Marler Clark founding partner. “It doesn’t matter if the food is catered or made in the host’s kitchen—both have an equal chance of making guests sick. ‘Home-cooked’ might sound delicious, but if basic food safety rules, like cooking to the appropriate temperature or avoiding cross contamination, aren’t followed, it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Marler has been on the front lines of food safety for more than two decades. Some of his first related clients stemmed from the outbreak E. coli O157: H7 traced back to the fast food chain Jack in the Box in the early 1990s.  More recently, he represented Minnesota-native Stephanie Smith whose dreams of being a dancer were shattered after she ate a hamburger tainted with O157: H7.

Fond du Lac health officials have urged reservation residents who brought home food from an event in the last several weeks to throw these leftovers away.

Anyone who becomes ill with E. coli O157 should contact the Department of Health. Symptoms of E. coli O157 can include stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and fever. More severe cases—usually found in children and the elderly—can cause Hemolytic-uremic syndrome, a potentially life threatening disorder.

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.

Shigella Lawsuit Filed against Salsarita’s Restaurant in Wal-Mart

Wife of active duty U.S. Navy diver is one of 275 people who became ill with Shigellosis 

Attorneys Bill Marler and Drew Falkenstein of Marler Clark, the nation’s only law firm dedicated to representing victims of foodborne illness, have filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Benton County, Arkansas on behalf of married couple Delida Groom and James Groom. Mrs. Groom was visiting the area when she was sickened with Shigellosis after consuming food from Salsarita’s Restaurant located in the Wal-Mart Home Office Café in Bentonville, Arkansas. Case number is V 14-1029-1 in the Circuit Court of Benton County, Arkansas, Civil Division.

In late June 2014, the Arkansas State Health Department announced that an outbreak of Shigella had occurred at the Wal-Mart Home Office in Bentonville, Arkansas. At or about the time of the announcement, Salsarita’s restaurant had temporarily closed its doors. The health department has stated that 275 cases of Shigellosis have occurred in nine states as part of this outbreak. After investigation, health officials indicated that Salsarita’s restaurant was the source of the outbreak. The outbreak stemmed from a few simple and preventable violations; some of which included employees not washing their hands and employees touching ready-to-eat food without wearing gloves.

In June 2014, Mrs. Groom traveled to Bentonville, Arkansas to visit her parents. While in Arkansas, on Friday, June 13, 2014, she attended a luncheon that included multiple foods from the Wal-Mart Home Office Café, including chips, salsa, and other items produced at the Salsarita’s restaurant located in the Café. The following evening, June 14, 2014, Mrs. Groom began to feel slightly fevered, light-headed, and nauseated. Over the next several days, her symptoms spiraled and included bloody diarrhea and severe gastrointestinal issues. She was later given treatment for metabolic disturbances given her immense gastrointestinal losses and hospitalized in the ICU for several days receiving critical care. Mrs. Groom developed long-term complications and continues to suffer from the effects of the Shigellosis illness.

“After thousands of cases, I am still amazed at how these outbreaks start,” said Marler. “Washing your hands and putting on gloves is not rocket science and it only takes a minute or two.”

Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. Most who are infected with Shigella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps starting a day or two after they are exposed to the bacteria. The diarrhea is often bloody. Shigellosis usually resolves in 5 to 7 days. Persons with Shigellosis in the United States rarely require hospitalization. A severe infection with high fever may be associated with seizures in children less than 2 years old.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Shigella outbreaks. The Shigella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Shigella 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 Shigella lawyers have litigated Shigella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as tomatoes, airplane and restaurant food.

Walmart’s Salsarita’s Sickened 275 with Shigella – Lawsuit to Follow

Lawsuit Filed Today.

Salsarita’s Restaurant in the Walmart Home Office Café in Bentonville has reopened following a Shigella outbreak that made 275 sick in nine states according to the Benton County Health Department.  According to the Arkansas State Health Department dozens of employees were also ill with Shigellosis.

The Benton County Health Department conducted an inspection on June 18, shorty after people started getting sick.  Inspectors found nine violations on that inspection.  Of those nine violations, five were marked priority, meaning they were concerns that needed to be fixed fast.  Some violations included, employees not washing their hands or touching cooked food without wearing gloves.  The report said raw chicken had been dripping on bottled drinks.

On a follow-up inspection on June 23, inspectors found seven violations, some of them the same as the previous inspection.

After the outbreak, Eurest, the third-party company in charge of managing the kitchen, hired a quality assurance manager and will retrain staff on the company’s safety protocols.

Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. Most who are infected with Shigella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps starting a day or two after they are exposed to the bacteria. The diarrhea is often bloody. Shigellosis usually resolves in 5 to 7 days. Persons with shigellosis in the United States rarely require hospitalization. A severe infection with high fever may be associated with seizures in children less than 2 years old.

Delida and James Groom live in Connecticut.  Mr. Groom is active duty with the U.S. Navy.  They have a 1-year-old daughter.  In June 2014, Mrs. Groom and her daughter traveled to Bentonville, Arkansas to visit Mrs. Groom’s parents.  While in Arkansas, on Friday, June 13, 2014, Mrs. Groom attended a luncheon that included multiple foods from the Walmart Home Office Café, including chips, salsa, and other items produced at the Salsarita’s restaurant located in the Café.

The following evening, June 14, 2014, Mrs. Groom began to feel slightly fevered, light-headed, and nauseated.  The symptoms continued throughout the night.  On June 15, 2014, Mrs. Groom developed severe diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and a high fever.  On June 16, 2014, Mrs. Groom’s fever continued to rise, and the other symptoms continued unabated. This prompted her to go the Mercy Urgent Care in Rogers, Arkansas.  Once she arrived, Mrs. Groom learned that she could not be seen for approximately five hours.  As a result, she left the urgent care facility.

Mrs. Groom and her daughter were scheduled to return home on June 17, 2014.  Unaware of the increasingly dire nature of her health crisis, Mrs. Groom elected to make the trip despite her symptoms.  Her mother agreed to make the long drive back to Connecticut with Mrs. Groom and her daughter.  During the first day of the trip home, Mrs. Groom’s symptoms caused them to have to stop frequently at rest areas, gas stations, and other facilities with restrooms.  Early in the day she noticed that her bouts of diarrhea had turned bloody.

The evening of June 17, 2014, Mrs. Groom’s episodes of diarrhea contained almost pure blood and no stool.  At this point, she and her daughter and mother were in the state of Indiana and were frightened and did not know what to do.  Mr. Groom was on active duty with the Navy and had learned of his wife’s dire circumstances and was frightened for the well-being of his wife and daughter.

Ultimately, Mrs. Groom decided to call her primary physician in Connecticut and received instruction to go to the nearest emergency hospital.  Thus, early the next morning, June 18, 2014, Mrs. Groom was seen at Hancock Regional Hospital in Greenefield, Indiana.

In the emergency department at Hancock Regional, Mrs. Groom was diagnosed with hypokalemia, which is a potassium deficiency caused by her immense gastrointestinal losses, as well as a dangerously low blood pressure.  Her fever also had continued to rise.  It was increasingly clear that the Shigella bacteria Mrs. Groom consumed on the contaminated food items manufactured and sold by the defendants had found its way into her bloodstream, causing her to develop sepsis.  Mrs. Groom was experiencing septic shock.

Mrs. Groom was admitted to the intensive care unit and quarantined, due to her likely infectious state.  Upon admission, it was also found that Mrs. Groom’s rectum had prolapsed, again due to the repeated, violent bouts of diarrhea that she had suffered for multiple days.  She was in severe pain and was medicated with morphine.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Groom’s mother kept Mr. Groom apprised of his wife’s declining health.  Mrs. Groom’s mother obtained a hotel room close to the hospital, where she stayed with Mrs. Groom’s 1-year-old daughter, who had also begun to suffer from gastrointestinal illness.

Mrs. Groom remained in the intensive care unit through the afternoon of June 21, 2014.  During her stay, she submitted a stool sample that tested positive for Shigella.  She ultimately was discharged against the advice of her doctors, who felt that she was not well enough to continue the long journey home.  Nevertheless, Mrs. Groom needed to get home to her family, and her young daughter needed to be home as well.  Thus, Mrs. Groom and her mother and daughter continued the drive home, arriving on or about June 23, 2014.

Mrs. Groom continues to suffer from the effects of her severe Shigellosis illness.  Her gastrointestinal function remains impaired and highly uncomfortable.  Also, approximately 3 weeks after the onset of her initial gastrointestinal symptoms, Mrs. Groom developed pain and swelling in multiple joints throughout her body, including both knees, ankles, and hands, her right elbow, and her neck.  This condition is known as reactive arthritis.  All of these medical problems were proximately caused by the Shigellosis infection.

Further, at the time that she tested positive for Shigella, Mrs. Groom learned from public health officials that she could not care for children or family members due to her infectious state.  This meant that she, a wife and mother, could not cook meals for her family or participate in the many activities of daily living that she had always enjoyed.  Nor could she provide nanny or babysitting services for a local family that had employed her to do so.  During the time that she was positive for Shigella infection, all of the household activities that she could not do had to be done by her husband, who also worked full time as an active duty diver for the U.S. Navy.  Mrs. Groom continues to be limited in her physical activity due to the ongoing effects of her illness, including the reactive arthritis.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Shigella outbreaks. The Shigella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Shigella 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 Shigella lawyers have litigated Shigella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as tomatoes, airplane and restaurant food.

If you or a family member became ill with a Shigella infection after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Shigella attorneys for a free case evaluation.