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Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

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Marler Clark Files Massachusetts E. coli Case

AP reports that our clients, Melissa and Andrew Kay, whose 8-year-old son Joshua died after eating ground beef contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 filed suit against Whole Foods Market and Doniphan, Missouri-based Rain Crow Ranch, according to court documents. The couple is seeking unspecified damages.

The couple bought the grass-fed ground beef at a Whole Foods in South Weymouth, Mass., according to the lawsuit which was filed in US District Court in Boston. Two other individuals also became sick. On Aug. 15, Whole Foods Markets in South Weymouth and Newton, Mass. recalled 368 lbs. of ground-beef products on concerns of E. coli O157:H7 contamination.

Court documents state that traceback investigation indicated all three individuals consumed ground beef purchased from two Whole Foods locations before betting sick. Joshua Kaye was later admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital. He had developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a complication of E. coli O157:H7 infection. Joshua Kaye died on July 7.

A stool sample taken from Joshua Kaye resulted in an E. coli 0157:H7 positive culture that identically matched the Whole Foods Market E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak strain, court documents said.

E. coli:  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.

Wonton Salmonella Sprout Outbreak Update – 111 Sick – Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania Hardest Hit

The CDC reports as of December 15, 2014, a total of 111 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Enteritidis have been reported from 12 states. Connecticut (8), Maine (4), Maryland (5), Massachusetts (35), Montana (1), New Hampshire (6), New York (21), Ohio (3), Pennsylvania (17), Rhode Island (7), Vermont (3) and Virginia (1).  Twenty-six percent of ill persons have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Collaborative investigation efforts of state, local, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicate that bean sprouts produced by Wonton Foods, Inc. are the likely source of this outbreak.   On November 21, 2014, Wonton Foods Inc. agreed to destroy any remaining products while they conducted a thorough cleaning and sanitation and implemented other Salmonella control measures. On November 24, the firm completed the cleaning and sanitation and resumed production of bean sprouts. The firm resumed shipment on November 29, 2014.

CDC recommends that consumers, restaurants, and other retailers always practice food safety for sprouts.  Children, older adults, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts).  Cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness. Cooking sprouts thoroughly kills any harmful bacteria.

Holyoke Delaney Restaurant, Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House and Log Rolling Catering Salmonella Outbreak

Acting under the authority of section MGL, Chapter 111, Section 127A, the Delaney House Restaurant was inspected on November 25, 20I4 by representatives from the Holyoke Board of Health and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Envirorunental Health, Food Protection Program (FPP).

• Nineteen (19) confirmed Salmonella cases and additional suspect cases were traced back to ten (10) different events held at the Delaney House between 11/11/14 and 11/I5/14.

• Five foodhandlers and one non-foodhandling employee at this establishment have tested positive for Salmonella.

• Some of the infected foodhandlers worked at events outside of the Delaney House, including the

Log Cabin, a take-out restaurant, and various catered events.

FPP investigated the Delaney House with a representative from the Board of Health and found that the foodborne outbreak associated with this establishment meets the definition of an imminent health hazard as defined by section 8-404.11 of the Food Code and that compliance with the Food Code has not been effected.  During this same site investigation, FPP staff observed and documented the following violations to the Food Code:

• Employee policy manual fails to require employees to report health conditions as required by 105 CMR 590.003(F).

• Single employee who washes dishes was observed handling clean dishes after loading dirty dishes, which fails to protect dishes from contamination as required by FC 3-307.11.

• Hot water sanitizing rinse in mechanical dishwasher failed to reach 180°F as required by FC 4-501.112.

Therefore, in accordance with 105 CMR 590.010(D)(l), FPP respectfully requests that the Holyoke Board of Health order the owner of these three operations to take the following actions within 12 hours of receipt of this letter:

1.   Correct all violations noted in the FPP inspection report dated November 25, 2014.

2.   Provide a complete list of staff who worked since November 11 at Delaney House, Log Cabin, or Log Rolling Catering.

3.   Provide a complete list of all on-site and off-site food service events worked since November 11 by any staff from Delaney House, Log Cabin, or Log Rolling Catering.

4.   Sort all staff into risk groups according to work assignments associated with level of food handling (i.e. high risk= prep cooks; low risk = cashiers).

5.   Ensure that each foodhandler does not work at any of the three operations until he or she has submitted two (2) stool samples that are negative for salmonella, at least 24 hours apart, as required by section 105 CMR 300.200(A) of DPH regulation, “Reportable Diseases, Surveillance, and Isolation and Quarantine Requirements”.

6.   In all three operations, clean and sanitize all food contact surfaces, and discard open or exposed food.

FPP also respectfully requests that the Holyoke Board of Health notify this office in writing of what actions will be and have been taken to effect compliance with 105 CMR 590.000, as per 105 CMR 590.010(D).  The Holyoke Board of Health also has the option of issuing an emergency closure notice under the authority of 105 CMR 590.014(A).

Delaney House in Holyoke Link to Salmonella Outbreak

Food Safety News reports that Massachusetts state and local health department officials are investigating 19 Salmonella cases linked to a restaurant in Holyoke,  Brian Fitzgerald, Holyoke’s health director, told a local TV station that officials were trying to figure out why people were apparently sickened after eating at the Delaney House in Holyoke between Nov. 11 and 15, 2014.

Investigative reports from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health indicate that 19 confirmed Salmonella cases and additional potential cases were traced back to 10 different events held at the Delaney House.

The restaurant has not been shut down, although the state asked local health officials to order the management to comply with several alleged food code violations.

Five food handlers and one non-food handling employee at the restaurant also tested positive for Salmonella. Some of the infected food handlers reportedly worked at events outside of the Delaney House, including the Log Cabin, a take-out restaurant, and various catered events.

Jimmy John’s and Cucumbers and E. coli O157:H7

Friday the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (“CDPHE”) and several Denver metropolitan area public health departments released a report of their investigation of an outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli O157:H7) that occurred in October 2013 at Denver Jimmy John’s restaurants.

Nine cases were identified, including 1 probable case and 8 laboratory-confirmed cases with matching pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multiple-locus variable number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) patterns from E. coli O157:H7 isolated from stool. All 9 cases reported eating sandwiches at Denver-area Jimmy John’s locations in early October 2013.  At least one developed severe hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

The outbreak investigation consisted of case finding and interviews, 2 separate case-control studies, environmental investigations, produce traceback, and laboratory testing. The results of this investigation indicate that consumption of Jimmy John’s sandwiches containing cucumbers imported from Mexico was the likely cause of the outbreak. As of the date of this report, no other cases of E. coli O157:H7 with the PFGE pattern combination seen in this outbreak were reported in Colorado.  See PowerPoint PDF.

And, its not like Jimmy John’s has not been in this position – BEFORE.

E. coli:  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.

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

Food Safety Lawyer Says It’s Past Time for a Warning Label on Sprouts

William Marler, an attorney specializing in food safety, warns about the danger of sprouts and that they are not as “healthy” as they seem

Another sprout-related Salmonella outbreak earlier this month has prompted the attorneys of the Seattle law firm, Marler Clark, to call on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require warnings on packaging of all raw sprouts. Marler Clark specializes in cases involving foodborne illness.

As of November 24, a total of 68 persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Enteritidis have been reported from 10 states. The number of ill people identified in each state is as follows: Connecticut (4), Maine (3), Massachusetts (31), Montana (1), New Hampshire (4), New York (5), Ohio (1), Pennsylvania (10), Rhode Island (6), and Vermont (3). The one ill person from Montana traveled to the Eastern United States during the period when likely exposure occurred.

Illness onset dates range from September 30, 2014 to November 10, 2014. Ill persons range in age from younger than one year to 83 years, with a median age of 31 years. Fifty-six percent of ill persons are female. Among 43 persons with available information, 11 (26%) have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.

Collaborative investigation efforts of state, local, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicate that bean sprouts produced by Wonton Foods, Inc. are the likely source of this outbreak.

The information available to date indicates that bean sprouts produced by Wonton Foods, Inc. may be contaminated with Salmonella and are not safe to eat. As of November 21, 2014, the firm has verbally agreed to voluntarily stop the production and sale of their bean sprouts.

“According to the FDA’s own 1999 advisory, Recommendations on Sprouted Seeds, sprouts have been increasingly implicated in foodborne outbreaks. The time has come to label sprouts as potentially hazardous,” says William Marler, the firm’s managing partner. He suggests this labeling mirror the requirements now found on unpasteurized juices:

-       WARNING: This product may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.

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. “Most people don’t understand the risks. The reality is most assume that something so “natural” is healthy, but the opposite is true—people who eat sprouts are gambling with their health each and every time they add them to a salad or sandwich. A warning label would go a long way towards explaining the real risks of sprouts.”

Bill Marler is an accomplished food safety advocate and attorney. He began litigating foodborne illness cases in 1993, when he successfully represented Brianne Kiner, the most seriously injured survivor of the Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. Over the years, Bill and his firm, Marler Clark, have become the leaders in representing victims of foodborne illness. Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of hepatitis A outbreaks.

Bill spends much of his time traveling to address food industry groups, fair associations, and public health groups about foodborne illness, related litigation, and surrounding issues. He has testified before Congress as well as State Legislatures. He is a frequent author of articles related to foodborne illness in food safety journals and magazines as well as on his personal blog, www.marlerblog.com. Bill also recently founded Food Safety News (www.foodsafetynews.com) as a one-stop resource for global food safety news and information.

CDC: Hold the Raw Sprouts, Please – Especially with Salmonella

Lieutenant Commander Rajal Mody, MD, MPH – CDC:

Lesson 1: A sprouted seed is a perfect vehicle for pathogens.

A sprouting seed is as inviting and nourishing as Salmonella or E coli could want, and the warm, moist conditions in which sprouts are produced only make matters worse. A single Salmonella organism on the outside of a seed can easily grow to an infectious dose after it has sprouted. The bacteria in or on growing sprouts cannot be washed off. Because Shiga toxin-producing E coli (STEC) have a low infectious dose, sprouts are a great vehicle. Sprouts have also been the vehicle for Listeria, which causes a very dangerous infection for pregnant women and the elderly.

Lesson 2: Sprouts have caused many outbreaks of illness.

Since sprouts were first recognized as a source of foodborne disease in the mid-1990s, they have become one of the “usual suspects” that foodborne disease epidemiologists look for when investigating an E coli or Salmonella outbreak. Since 1998, more than 30 outbreaks have been reported to the CDC, due to many different kinds of sprouts — alfalfa, bean, clover, and others. In fact, CDC’s foodborne disease surveillance systems have identified 3 sprouts-associated outbreaks since June of 2010 that spread across multiple states.

Lesson 3: It is difficult to grow “safe” sprouts.

Once the potential dangers of sprouts became known, the US Food and Drug Administration developed guidance to help sprout growers reduce the risk for pathogen contamination in sprouts they produce and sell. Many sprouts growers have implemented practices to decontaminate seeds before sprouting, but no available method has proved completely effective. People who eat raw sprouts ought to know that they are taking a risk, including people who grow their own sprouts, because the contamination typically starts with the seed.

Lesson 4: Sprouts can make even young and healthy people ill.

This is one of the biggest lessons learned from the outbreak in Europe in 2011 and from our experience with outbreaks in this country. Sproutbreaks in the United States predominantly affect healthy persons aged 20-49 years. A typical victim may be an especially health conscious person in the prime of life. Nevertheless, illnesses from sprouts can be particularly severe in vulnerable populations, such as young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with compromised immunity.

Lesson 5: It can be hard for those who become ill to remember having eaten sprouts.

We have found in our investigation of outbreaks that were ultimately linked to sprouts that people often do not remember having eaten them, because they are often just a garnish or just one of many ingredients in a food dish. It is not necessary to eat large quantities of sprouts to make a person sick. An ill person’s inability to accurately recall what they ate sometimes makes it difficult to pinpoint an outbreak of sprouts.

There have been some big Sproutbreaks over the years

2011 – E. coli O104:H4 – Fenugreek Bean Sprouts – Over 4,000 sickened – 900 with kidney failure and 50 deaths – Europe, Canada and U.S.

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6250a3.htm; https://www-s.med.illinois.edu/m2/epidemiology/LiteratureCritique/pdf/Buchholz_2011.pdf

2005 – Salmonella – Mung Bean Sprouts – Over 600 sick – Canada

http://news.ontario.ca/archive/en/2005/12/14/Update-on-Salmonella-Outbreak.html; http://www.sproutnet.com/pdfs/Toronto-Mung-2005.pdf

1996 – E. coli O157:H7 – Radish Sprouts – Over 6,000 sick – Japan

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2640759/pdf/10341179.pdf

My friends at Barf Blog document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988.

Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont Hit with Salmonella Sprouts

As of November 21, 2014, the CDC reports a total of 63 persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Enteritidis have been reported from 10 states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The one ill person from Montana traveled to the Eastern United States during the period when likely exposure occurred.

Illness onset dates range from September 30, 2014 to November 8, 2014. Among 42 persons with available information, 11 (26%) have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.

Collaborative investigation efforts of state, local, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicate that bean sprouts produced by Wonton Foods, Inc. are the likely source of this outbreak.

The information available to date indicates that bean sprouts produced by Wonton Foods, Inc. may be contaminated with Salmonella and are not safe to eat. As of November 21, 2014, the firm has verbally agreed to voluntarily stop the production and sale of their bean sprouts.

E. coli Attorneys and Lawyers in Minnesota

Goodness, what’s going on in Minnesota with E. coli?

E. coli:  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