Header graphic for print

Food Poison Journal

Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

First Lawsuit Filed in July E. coli O157 Outbreak on Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation

Investigation by the MN Dept. of Health finds food served by Jim-N-Jo’s Northland Katering responsible for sickening dozens.

Marler Clark, a Seattle-based law firm specializing in food safety, has filed suit against House of Prime on behalf of Robert Danielson, a resident of Cloquet in Carlton County. Danielson became ill with E. coli O157 after consuming food prepared by Jim-N-Jo’s Northland Katering, which is wholly owned and operated by House of Prime. Local co-counsel on the suit is Jardine, Logan, & O’Brien of Lake Elmo, MN.

Danielson is just one of as many as 60 people who became ill with E. coli O157 after consuming food served at an Elder’s Picnic hosted by the Chippewa Indian Tribe on July 11, 2014.  All the food served at the event was prepared by Jim-N-Jo’s Northland Katering, which is headquartered in Cloquet.

Several days after the Elders Picnic, Danielson fell ill with nausea, fatigue, and a general feeling of malaise. His symptoms worsened that night and over the course of the next day to include severe and bloody diarrhea. Eventually he sought emergency medical treatment at the Cloquet Community Hospital where he was rehydrated and given medications to ease his discomfort. While Danielson was receiving treatment about a dozen other attendees of the Elders Picnic were in that same emergency room.

Danielson—and others who attended the Elders Picnic—tested positive for E. coli O157, which, in the most severe cases, can result in Hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially life threatening disorder.

This launched an investigation by local health officials and the Minnesota Department of Health. Marler Clark and their team of epidemiologists trained to trace back the causes of food borne outbreaks, was retained to help with the investigation.

Eventually the cause of the outbreak was linked to the Elder’s Picnic and the food from Jim-N-Jo’s Northland Katering. The most likely cause was found to be the potato salad or one of the raw ingredients that goes into it.

“Catered food is often the first place to look after an outbreak that can be tied to any event. Like restaurants, caterers are supposed to follow basic food safety standards, but sometimes these businesses are a bit more relaxed than they should be, which can result in cross contamination, not cooking or keeping foods at their appropriate temperatures, or other issues that can easily turn a good event into a nightmare for attendees,” said Bill Marler, founding partner of Marler Clark.

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 E. coli O157: H7.

Since being discharged from the hospital, Danielson’s health has steadily improved, but he still continues to recover from his illness.

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.

Listeria Recall: Smoked Prosciutto Speck

The food recall warning for Marc Angelo brand Genoa Salami issued on Aug. 6, 2014, has been updated to include an additional product. The additional product was identified during a Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) food safety investigation.

Concord Premium Meats Ltd. is recalling Marc Angelo brand Smoked Prosciutto Speck, product of Italy, from the marketplace due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled product described below:

Marc Angelo Smoked Prosciutto Speck, 100 g, with a best-before date of 14 NO 02 and UPC 6 27907 05740 3. The product was distributed in Ontario and Quebec.

CFIA recommends that people check to see if they have recalled product in their home. They should be thrown out or returned to the store where purchased.

This recall was triggered by CFIA test results. CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings. CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

At Least 18 E. coli O111 Cases in 4 States Likely Linked to Cabbage

Minnesota State health officials have identified green whole head cabbage as the likely source of an E. coli O111 outbreak that sickened 15 people in Minnesota in July.

The cabbage was likely contaminated at some point prior to distribution to restaurants.

Routine monitoring by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) identified the 15 cases of illness associated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O111. Bacterial isolates from all of the cases had the same DNA fingerprint. This genetic strain of E. coli O111 had not been seen in the United States previously.

MDH investigators were able to interview 14 of the cases: 13 of them ate at 9 different Applebee’s restaurants in Minnesota, and one ate at Yard House.

Many cases had reported eating the Oriental Chicken Salad at Applebee’s, leading Applebee’s to voluntarily and out of an abundance of caution pull the menu item and specific ingredients from the salad from their menu for a time. It was returned to the menu after Applebee’s obtained different sources for the ingredients.

The common food item across all foods consumed by cases was green whole head cabbage.

Minnesota officials traced the cabbage to a common supplier outside of Minnesota and continue to work with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate its source. The FDA examination of the potentially involved farms is still ongoing.

Single cases of illness that match the outbreak strain have occurred in three other states.

The illnesses occurred between June 25 and July 3. Four of the people who became ill were hospitalized and all have recovered. No new cases connected with this outbreak have been identified in Minnesota since July 10.

Symptoms of illness caused by E. coli O111 typically include stomach cramps and diarrhea, often with bloody stools, but only a low-grade or no fever. People usually become ill two to five days after exposure, but this time period can range from one to at least eight days. Most people recover in five to 10 days. Complications from infection are more common among those with weaker immune systems, including young children and the elderly. As with E. coli O157:H7, infection with E. coli O111 should not be treated with antibiotics, as this practice might promote further complications.

Cilantro is cause of Texas Cyclospora Outbreak

The Cyclospora illness outbreak being investigated by DSHS and local health departments in Texas along with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration appears to have ended. The number of new illnesses being reported has returned to background levels, and the investigation has linked the cases in four restaurant clusters to cilantro imported from Puebla, Mexico.

Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by consuming food or water contaminated with the Cyclospora parasite. The major symptom is watery diarrhea lasting a few days to a few months. Additional symptoms may include loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss, abdominal cramps, bloating, increased gas, nausea, vomiting and a low fever. Symptoms may come and go multiple times over a period of weeks.

126 cases are considered part of the outbreak with an onset of illness after May 1 and no history of international travel within the two weeks before onset. Most cases occurred in June and July. However, it is unknown whether all illnesses are linked to cilantro. 166 total cyclosporiasis cases have been reported in Texas in 2014. Most of the cases are in residents of North Texas.

DSHS, in conjunction with local health departments, investigated four restaurant clusters in North Texas that included a total of 21 people who got ill. All 21 reported eating a food item from the restaurant containing cilantro within two weeks before becoming ill. A preliminary traceback investigation conducted by FDA and DSHS has identified Puebla, Mexico as the source of the cilantro that was served in all four restaurants. While the investigation has not found samples of cilantro contaminated with cyclospora, there is enough evidence to establish a strong epidemiological link between the illnesses and the cilantro. The state of Puebla was also identified as the source of fresh cilantro linked to a cyclosporiasis outbreak in 2013.