coli Outbreaks of 2008 Show a Problem Getting Worse, Says Food Safety Lawyer
Source of Article: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2008/12/prweb1780154.htm
A look at the biggest E. coli outbreaks in 2008 suggests an
ever-worsening problem. Food safety lawyer Fred Pritzker
says failure of regulation is evident as E. coli outbreaks continued to cause
death and serious illness. "You still get companies that continually
flout the rules, and there's not enough consequences
to stop the bad actors,'' Pritzker said. Pritzker lists details of five major E. coli outbreaks of
Minneapolis, Minnesota (PRWEB)
December 22, 2008 -- A look at the biggest E. coli outbreaks in 2008 suggests
an ever-worsening problem.
In 2008, large-scale corporate farms and centralized production facilities
continued to play a major role in America's E. coli problem. But by
far the largest E. coli outbreak of the year was centered at a lone family
restaurant in Locust Grove,
The Country Cottage Restaurant outbreak started August. 15. By the time it
was over, 341 people were sickened with E. coli O111 infections, 72 persons
were hospitalized and one 26-year-old man, a gospel singer, was dead.
Fred Pritzker, a Minneapolis
lawyer whose law firm is nationally recognized in the area of foodborne illness litigation, said that when taken all
together, 2008 was a year in which America's deadly E. coli threat
showed no signs of slowing down from a dangerous pace set in 2007. Between
June and November 2007, 30 million pounds of beef were recalled by 20 different
companies. In 2008, ground beef recalls linked to E. coli outbreaks continued
to be common and large.
"It's a failure of regulation,'' Pritzker
said. "People are eating food that contains
this deadly pathogen.''
In keeping with the axiom that ground beef is the most common vector for
E. coli O157:H7, 2008 was marked by multi-state outbreaks of infections that
were associated with beef trimmings for hamburger produced by Nebraska Beef
Ltd of Omaha.
The company ordered two major recalls of tainted beef in June and July.
The year also was highlighted by a major E. coli outbreak related to fresh
produce. In 2006, U.S.
consumers were rocked by a deadly E. coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with
bagged spinach. In 2008, the tainted leafy green vegetable was iceberg
lettuce bagged at a food plant in Detroit.
The outbreak sickened at least 50 people.
Pritzker said produce growers still lack
effective mandatory safety standards to guard against E. coli contamination.
In repeat-offender slaughterhouses, more inspections are needed.
"You still get companies that continually flout the rules, and there's not enough consequences to stop the bad actors,'' Pritzker said.
Ever since 1993, when four children died from E. coli O157:H7 infections in
an outbreak linked to undercooked restaurant hamburgers, the U.S. food
industry has been under pressure to curb the bacteria.
There was a decade of progress, including help from Congress. But Prtizker said 2008 was another year in which E. coli
infections seemed to gain momentum. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, 2005 was the year when rates of E. coli O157:H7
infections in healthy people started to rise again after steady decline.
Some researchers believe a possible explanation for increased prevalence
of E. coli O157:H7 in cattle is related to a byproduct of ethanol. Called
distillers grain, it became increasingly abundant as cattle feed during
ethanol's boom in 2006, 2007 and early 2008.
A study by researchers at Kansas
found higher levels of E. coli O157:H7 in the feces of cattle fed a diet that
included distillers grain, which is cheaper than
Although the study was not conclusive, Pritzker
said a lot of food safety experts came to believe in 2008 that the correlation
makes sense. And two other E. coli problems went unresolved in 2008: Several
strains of E. coli that are just as deadly as O157:H7 remained unchecked by
the government and some purveyors of raw milk are still skirting the law to
sell a product increasingly linked to illness outbreaks.
"It's easy to gloss over the problem if you don't see the individual
suffering involved in these outbreaks,'' Pritzker
said. "The agony and the suffering of these
individuals is dramatic and significant.''
Major E. coli Outbreaks of 2008:
-Country Cottage Restaurant. The outbreak was linked in August to
contamination by E. coli O111. A total of 341 outbreak-related cases were
reported, 56 cases were in children, 72 persons were hospitalized and one
died. The restaurant was shut down and reopened in late November under an
agreement with health officials. While no single food item was found to be
the source, officials believe several different foods became contaminated
with the bacteria.
-Nebraska Beef Ltd. In late June, the Omaha company recalled 5.3 million pounds
of trimmings for ground beef. Health officials linked the product to 49
confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection in seven states. About a month
later, the same slaughterhouse recalled another 1.2 million pounds of meat
linked to 31 confirmed E. coli O157:H7 cases in 12 states. Much of the
recalled meat was supplied through the Kroger grocery chain, but the tainted
beef also turned up elsewhere. At the Barbecue Pit in Moultrie, Georgia,
there were at least eight confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7. In four of
those illnesses, victims suffered hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a
complication that can lead to kidney failure.
Boy Scout Reservation. Health officials this summer confirmed 25 cases of E.
coli O157:H7 infection among attendees at a Boy Scout camp in Goshen, Virginia.
The cases were matched through molecular fingerprinting and linked to frozen
ground beef from California-based S&S Foods. S&S recalled about
153,630 pounds of ground beef products.
-Aunt Mid's Iceberg Lettuce. Michigan
officials confirmed that bagged iceberg lettuce was the common source of
illness in a September-October outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections that
included 38 cases in Michigan, nine in Illinois and three in Ontario. At least 21 of those who were
sickened spent time in the hospital. The outbreak strain of E. coli was never
found at Aunt Mid's processing plant and
investigators could never say if the lettuce became contaminated at the plant
or in California,
where it was grown. Aunt Mid's lettuce was
associated with E. coli infections at the Lenawee County Jail, two Illinois restaurants and Michigan State
Ground Beef. In September,Vermont Livestock
Slaughter and Processing Co. in Ferrisburg, Vermont,
recalled 2,758 pounds of ground beef products that had been distributed to
restaurants in the state. The recall was prompted by an outbreak of E. coli
O157:H7. At least 10 people were sickened, including one who was
hospitalized. An investigation by state and federal health officials found
that the recalled beef may have caused the illnesses.