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Food Poison Journal

Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Judge Orders Seafood Company Closed Due to Listeria and Botulism Risks

Star SeafoodAt the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a judge has ordered L.A. Star Seafood Company Inc., located in Los Angeles, and its owners, Sima and Sam Goldring, to halt operations until they demonstrate to the FDA that they can process food in compliance with food safety laws and regulations.

In 2012, at the FDA’s request, the company recalled some of its products due to potential contamination. In 2013, the FDA inspected the L.A. Star facility, and sent the company a warning letter detailing steps the company must take to comply with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and Current Good Manufacturing Practice requirements. In 2014, another inspection of the L.A. Star facility documented the company and its owners’ continued failure to comply with the law.

The consent decree of permanent injunction requires L.A. Star to control for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) and Clostridium botulinum (C. bot), two disease-causing bacteria. The consent decree also requires the company to devise and implement Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plans and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures, and train staff in both.

L. mono is a foodborne pathogen that can cause serious illness or even death in vulnerable groups such as newborns, elderly adults and those with impaired immune systems. C. bot, a bacterium that can grow in seafood products, causes botulism, which is rare, but can cause paralysis and death without prompt treatment. The purpose of food safety regulations is, in part, to prevent the growth and spread of L. mono, C. bot and other microorganisms that cause foodborne illness.

Cow Share Link to Raw Milk 2005 E. coli Outbreak

On December 12, 2005, the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) Food Safety Program (FSP) was notified that the Washington Department of Health had received a report of a positive E. coli O157:H7 test in a patient from the Vancouver, Washington, area. WSDA FSP was further notified that the Clark County Health Department had determined that several E. coli cases had been caused by the consumption of raw milk produced by Dee Creek Farm in Woodland, Washington.

Prior to the December outbreak, WSDA had learned of Dee Creek Farm’s cow-share program, and had ordered the farm to cease the dispensing, giving, trading, or selling of milk or to meet requirements for selling milk that had been laid out by WSDA. The letter was sent in August 2005, and WSDA received a response from Dee Creek Farm in September 2005, stating that the farm was not selling milk but that the farm’s owners intended to meet requirements for a milk producer and retail raw milk processor in the future.

During the December investigation into the E. coli outbreak, WSDA noted several milk processing violations that would have been addressed during the licensing process had Dee Creek applied for the license. Among the violations were the following:

• No animal health testing documentation for brucellosis and tuberculosis or health permits
• Beef cattle contact with wild elk
• No water or waste water system available at milk barn for milking operations or cleaning
• No hand washing sinks available for cleaning and sanitizing
• No bacteriological test results available for the farm’s well-water system
• Mud/manure with standing water at the entrance to the milk barn parlor
• Milking bucket in direct contact with unclean surfaces during milk production
• Multiple instances providing for the opportunity for cross-contamination
• No separate milk processing area from domestic kitchen
• No raw milk warning label provided on containers

In addition, sample testing confirmed the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in two milk samples provided by Dee Creek Farm and in five environmental samples taken from Dee Creek Farm milk-barn areas by investigators.  See WSDOH Report.

When its investigation was completed, WSDA had identified eighteen people who had consumed raw milk purchased from Dee Creek Farm through the cow-share program and developed symptoms consistent with E. coli infection. Five Clark County, Washington, children were hospitalized, with two developing hemolytic uremic syndrome and requiring critical care and life support for kidney failure as a result of their E. coli infections.

A 2008 Raw Milk Campylobacter Outbreak with Devistating Results

Picture 3(6)On October 2, 2008, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a report linking an outbreak of Campylobacter illnesses to unpasteurized milk from Alexandre Eco Farms Dairy. The report was the result of an investigation commenced on July 14, 2008, when Dr. Thomas Martinelli, the County Health Officer for Del Norte County, California reported four cases of laboratory confirmed Campylobacter infections and five additional cases of diarrhea in Del Norte County residents. Eight of the original nine sick individuals were members of the Alexandre Eco Farms “cow-leasing” program. Eight of these individuals had consumed milk produced on the farm. The ninth sick individual worked with cattle on the Alexandre Eco Farms Dairy. One of the eight individuals who were sick, Mari Tardiff, had already been hospitalized with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), following the onset of acute gastroenteritis after consumption of the milk.

As part of the investigation, health department officials retrieved a refrigerated carton of partially consumed Alexandre Eco Farms milk from Mari Tardiff’s home. Mari had consumed a portion of the milk before her illness. The specimen tested positive for Campylobacter jejuni DNA using a test called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Testing indicated that multiple strains of Campylobacter jejuni were present in the milk. Del Norte County officials eventually identified 16 cases of Campylobacter jejuni associated with the outbreak. Fifteen of those were persons who consumed milk from Alexandre Eco Farms Dairy. The 16th case was the farm employee. CDPH and Del Norte county officials concluded that “the available epidemiologic and laboratory data support the conclusion that this cluster of acute diarrheal illness in Del Norte County was an outbreak of C. jejuni infections caused by consumption of unpasteurized milk from [Alexandre Eco Farms Dairy.]”

The causal link between Alexandre Eco Farms Dairy and Mari’s illness was so clear, and her injuries so remarkable, that the physicians that treated her published a report on her case in the medical journal. “Investigation of the First Case of Guillain-Barre Syndrome Associated with Consumption of Unpasteurized Milk – California, 2008.” Amy K. Earon, T. Martinelli, W. Miller, C. Parker, R. Mandrell, D. Vugia. The authors explained the laboratory methods used in investigating Mari’s illness:

We reviewed the patient’s medical record and interviewed her husband to assess her symptoms and exposures. We used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and multilocus sequence typing (MLST) to test a six-week old unpasteurized milk sample, obtained from the cow leasing-program and partially consumed by the patient, for genes encoding the bacterial membrane component lipooligosaccharide (LOS) in GBS-associated Campylobacter jenuni.

In addition to the DNA testing, the authors also tested Mari’s blood for anti-bodies to GBS. The authors then explained that the PCR and MLST testing of the milk detected Campylobacter jejuni gene. In addition, the blood test was positive for anti-bodies that indicated the presence of GBS. The authors concluded, “Combined laboratory and epidemiologic evidence established the first reported association between GBS and unpasteurized milk consumption.”

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Campylobacter outbreaks. The Campylobacter lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Campylobacter 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 Campylobacter lawyers have litigated Campylobacter cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as raw milk and municipal water.

Jewel Deli Salmonella Outbreak Lawsuit Filed by Marler Clark

JO-LOGO_StackedwCircle_CMYKIn June 2104 Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) investigated an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium among persons who had consumed chicken or deli products from Jewel Osco, a grocery store located in Tinley Park, Illinois.  In total 19 case patients were identified.  Fourteen patients were laboratory confirmed with Salmonella Typhimurium, five patients were considered to be “probable” cases. Dates of illness onset ranged from May 9 to June 11. Two additional case-patients who were laboratory confirmed with Salmonella Typhimurium were identified with symptom on June 15 and June 25. They both had exposure to a previously identified household member will illness associated with this outbreak. Eight outbreak associated case patients required hospitalization and three others visited their physician’s office.

Genetic testing by Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) of isolates cultured from stool specimens submitted by case patients was performed by the Illinois Department of Public Health Laboratory.  The outbreak strain was identified as PulseNet Pattern Identification Number JPXX01.0324.

Environmental health staff from CCDPH and the Tinley Park Village Inspector conducted an on-site investigation at the Jewel Osco deli on June 11, 2014.  The deli was closed for six hours for cleaning and disinfection. All food items were discarded.  Food handlers were excluded from work pending negative stool screening tests for Salmonella. Two food handlers were positive for Salmonella Typhimurium strain JPXX01.0324.  No leftover foods from the deli or from homes of case-patients were tested.

CCDPH concluded that an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium JPXX01.0324 occurred at Jewel Osco deli. Outbreak associated cases consumed deli products or chicken from the store. After the June 11 intervention by health officials, no other cases were reported.

Marler Clark represents three victims.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella 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 Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants. The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.