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.