A national food poisoning litigation practice has brought us to all corners of the country, and sometimes even internationally in outbreaks where foreign ompanies have sickened residents of the US. E. coli, Salmonella, and hepatitis A outbreaks have brought us to Pennsylvania more than a few times. After the announcement of a multi-state E. coli O157:H7 outbreak caused by contaminated bologna from Palmyra Bologna Company, it is time for some reflection.
Past E. coli outbreak litigation in Pennsylvania:
- Taco Bell lettuce E. coli outbreak in 2006: This outbreak began in November 2006 and ended up sickening residents of Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, and South Carolina. Investigators initially suspected green, and then white, onions as the cause of the outbreak. In fact, a sample of the white onions tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, but the strain was determined to have been different from the E. coli strain that caused people to become ill in the outbreak. Ultimately, epidemiological evidence established that shredded lettuce was the cause of the outbreak.
- Dole baby spinach E. coli outbreak 2006: 2006 was a monumental year for leafy green safety, beginning with the spinach outbreak that sickened more than 200 people nationally (including multiple Pennsylvania residents), and causing more than 30 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and 5 deaths. The outbreak began in late August 2006 and, ultimately, 13 bags of Dole baby spinach tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 and other strains of E. coli. One of the outbreak strains of E. coli was found at the Paicines Ranch in San Benito County, California in a sample of wild pig feces.
- Nebraska Beef E. coli O157:H7 outbreak 2008: Pennsylvania residents were also sickened in the 2008 E. coli outbreak linked to ground beef products from Nebraska Beef. The outbreak actually occurred in two phases, sickening people thoughout early and mid-summer in 2008. Other states involved in the outbreak were New York, Colorado, Georgia, Virginia, Massachussets, Connecticut, and New Jersey. The outbreak prompted the recall of over 600,000 pounds of potentially contaminated product by Nebraska Beef.
- Topps Ground Beef Patties 2007: A multistate outbreak of E.coli O157:H7 occurred among persons who had consumed the same brand of frozen ground beef patties. Ground beef patties recovered from patients’ homes and from unopened packages of Topp’s brand frozen ground beef patties yielded E.coli O157:H7 with several different genetic fingerprint patterns. Forty cases of E.coli O157:H7 infection have been matched with the same genetic fingerprint pattern that was identified in the ground beef.
- Freshway lettuce E. coli O145 outbreak: Cases of a genetically-identical strain of E. coli O145 were identified in the states of Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and New York. Illness onsets occurred between April 10 and 26. Several of the cases were students at Ohio State University, the University of Michigan, and Daemen College (Buffalo, New York). Several of the ill in Ann Arbor, Michigan, had eaten at a common restaurant. At least four students in the Wappinger Central School District, in New York State, were also involved in the outbreak. Shredded lettuce served in the school district tested positive for E. coli bacteria. Romaine lettuce was named as the vehicle for this outbreak, on May 6, after the same strain of E. coli O145 was found in a Freshway Foods romaine lettuce sample in New York state.
That is a lot of trips back and forth to Pennsylvania on behalf of foodpoisoning victims. But the list of Pennsylvania outbreaks we have been involved in is not yet complete:
- Chi Chi’s hepatitis A outbreak 2003: Contaminated green onions were the cause of one of the largest hepatitis A outbreaks ever to happen in the United States. In 2003, over 600 people were infected by hepatitis A in an outbreak linked to green onions served at a Chi Chi’s restaurant in Beaver Valley Mall in Monaca, Pennsylvania. Several people died from complications related to liver failure, and our client Richard Miller had to have a liver transplant as a result of his illness.
- Sheetz Convenience Store Tomatoes 2004: Salmonella contaminated tomatoes caused a major outbreak amongst residents of multiple eastern states in 2004, including many Pennsylvania residents. The tomatoes were served primarily on sandwiches sold at Sheetz convenience stores, which is a mid-Atlantic chain of gas stations with deli take-out sections. Hundreds were sickened.
- Taco Bell Salmonella outbreak 2010: Approximately 150 residents of multiple states, including Pennsylvania, were sickened with Salmonella in summer 2010 at Taco Bell restaurants. Two strains of Salmonella, baildon and hartford, were ultimately implicated in the outbreak. Cases of Salmonella Hartford were first identified in late April; the case numbers reached a peak in early June. As of August 4, 75 cases of Salmonella Hartford had been identified. Cases of Salmonella Baildon were first identified beginning in early May; the numbers of new cases declined substantially by late June.