Another E. coli Outbreak


SEATTLE, WA – Public health officials in Washington, DC, California, and Wisconsin are playing a dangerous game with American consumers by refusing to reveal the specific stores or restaurants that may have served meat contaminated by toxic E. coli, says the Seattle lawyer who represents victims of food-borne illness.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Saturday that the Rochester Meat Company was recalling 188,000 pounds of ground beef for E. coli contamination. The recalled ground beef was produced on October 30, 2007 and November 6, 2007 for sale to restaurants and food service institutions. The recall was the result of an E. coli outbreak investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services (WDOH) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) that identified at least five people who had became ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections after eating Rochester Meat Company ground beef products.

Bill Marler, managing partner of the Marler Clark law firm, called on the heads of the agencies investigating the E. coli outbreak – Dr. Richard Raymond, head of FSIS, Kevin Hayden, secretary of WDPH, and Dr. Mark Horton, director of CDPH, to immediately disclose the names and locations of restaurants and retail outlets that received the contaminated meat.

“Public health officials’ refusal to identify food establishments that served, or that could still be serving, the recalled meat means consumers may still be at risk,” Marler said. “We are hearing from the environmental health community that at least one national chain restaurant is connected with this recall. If that is true, these public officials are playing a very dangerous game. The public has a right to know the names of the establishments and the locations of all restaurants that received the recalled meat so they can make informed decisions about where to eat.”

The Rochester Meat Company recall appears to be the first major ground beef recall of 2008. 2007 set a recent record for recalls, topping twenty E. coli recalls totaling over 33 million pounds of meat. This is the third recall of ground beef by the Minnesota firm since 1996. Its previous recalls were for 152,000 pounds and 30,000 pounds, according to FSIS records.

BACKGROUND: Marler began representing victims of E. coli outbreaks in 1993, and has since represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other foodborne illness outbreaks. His firm, Marler Clark, has represented clients in claims against such meat companies as AFG, Cargill, ConAgra, and United Food Group, and fast-food restaurant chains Arby’s, Carl’s Jr., McDonald’s, Subway, and Wendy’s. Marler comments on foodborne illness outbreaks and litigation at www.marlerblog.com.

More about the Cargill E. coli outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.