1.8 million pounds of ground beef subject of a massive nationwide recall

Marler Clark, the nation’s only law firm dedicated to representing victims of foodborne illness, has filed a lawsuit in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court on behalf of a university student hospitalized with an E. coli O157:H7 infection linked to the nationwide recall of ground beef from Wolverine Packing Company. Co-counsel on the case is respected Michigan attorney Michael Heilmann. The suit’s case number is 2014-0322-NO and has been assigned to the Honorable J. Richardson Johnson (P15527).

Late last week, the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that Wolverine Packing Company, headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, had recalled 1.8 million pounds of ground beef products that may have been contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. Much of this beef was shipped to distributors for restaurant use in 12 states. To date, there have been 11 confirmed cases of illness in four states that public health partners, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and FSIS have linked to ground beef produced by Wolverine Packing.

The student is one of those sickened by the contaminated beef. A Kalamazoo resident, she became ill in late April after eating meals that included ground beef from two separate restaurants, including one in Farmington, Michigan. The ground beef she consumed from at least one of these locations can be traced back to manufacture and sale from Wolverine Packing and is subject to the recent recall.

On April 23, 2014, she woke feeling ill, but still made her way to class for a final exam. Soon after, her symptoms became progressively worse leading her mother to rush her to the emergency room. She was eventually diagnosed as suffering from an E. coli O157:H7 infection and was admitted to the hospital where she remained for 6 days. She was treated with pain and anti-nausea medication as well as intravenous hydration. Blood tests showed that she had become anemic as a result of blood loss from her illness. The main symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection include nausea, stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting.

Upon her release from the hospital, she was cared for by her family. She later returned to her own home, but still suffers the on-going after effects of her illness, including general weakness and gastrointestinal discomfort.

“It is disappointing to see illnesses and a recall of this size,” said Bill Marler, Marler Clark managing partner. “We had gone so long without a recall like this that I was hoping it would never happen again, that the industry had learned from past mistakes. Since I first came face-to-face with the ravages that E. coli infection can bring, I have hoped that large scale outbreaks, like this one, could someday be eradicated.” Marler has been an active food safety advocate for decades. In 1993, Marler represented Brianne Kiner and her family after she consumed tainted meat from Jack in the Box.

It has been six years since there has been a ground beef recall of this size or greater associated with illness from E. coli O157:H7. The most recent recall history includes:

June, 2008: An undetermined amount of ground beef was recalled from Kroger stores in Michigan and Ohio. Ultimately, the tainted meat was responsible for 42 illnesses.

June, 2008: Nebraska Beef issued a nationwide recall of 5.3 million pounds of meat. The CDC linked 49 illnesses to the consumption of these products. Twenty-seven required hospitalization with one victim requiring treatment for hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure associated with E. coli infection.  Later that summer, Nebraska Beef expanded the recall to include 1.36 million more pounds. As many as 30 additional cases of E. coli infection resulted from beef targeted by this secondary recall.

October, 2007: Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation recalled approximately 845,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties for possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination. The recall was triggered after three people in Minnesota tested positive for E. coli. The most grievously sickened victim was Stephanie Smith, who developed HUS and spent months in a medically-induced coma. The former dance instructor was paralyzed from the waist down and both her kidney function and cognitive abilities were impaired. Michael Moss of the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for the article he wrote about Stephanie Smith and the background of the beef that went into the burger that made her sick.

September, 2007: The second largest recall in U.S. history—21.7 million pounds of frozen hamburger patties from Topps Meat Company contaminated with a deadly type of E. coli. (The largest was the 1997 Hudson Foods Company recall of 25 million pounds of ground beef.) Illnesses were reported in eight states.

June, 2007: United Food Group, LLC, recalled approximately 5.7 million pounds of fresh and frozen ground beef products. Over a dozen illnesses resulted.

About Marler ClarkMarler 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 KinerStephanie Smith and Linda Rivera.