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Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat


When six-year-old Lauren Rudolph was rushed to the hospital with severe abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and fever, doctors were mystified as to the cause of her sudden and terrifying symptoms. Just five days later Lauren would become the first victim of a mysterious bacterial pathogen. Hundreds of sick children began to show up at hospitals across the Western states, three more children died.

After frantic research, health officials managed to trace the deadly outbreak to a single source: undercooked hamburgers eaten at the popular fast-food chain Jack in the Box.

Back in 1993, no one had ever heard of E. coli. Food poisoning might give you a stomach ache but it wasn't regarded as life-threatening, and no one dreamed that giving a child a hamburger could have deadly consequences. The alarming E. coli outbreak that began with Lauren Rudolph opened America's eyes to the dangers of undercooked meat, touching off a media and political frenzy that would revolutionize the way we eat.

"The Jack in the Box outbreak is considered the meat industry's wake-up call," says bestselling author Jeff Benedict. "As soon as hamburgers killed kids, everything changed." Benedict conducted over 250 on-the-record interviews and poured over thousands of pages of documents to produce an incredible behind-the-scenes account of the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak. Benedict chronicles how this outbreak, apart from causing severe injury, challenged everyone affected; from the group of doctors who had never seen a case of E. coli to the Jack in the Box executives who had to quickly devise new industry safety standards that went way beyond what any other restaurant chain had done previously or see their business fail.

In POISONED Jeff Benedict expertly guides readers through the unprecedented political and legal battle that followed America's largest outbreak of foodborne illness to date, told through the eyes of a vividly drawn cast of characters:

* Roni Rudolph, the determined mother of the first E. coli victim, who would go on to become a food safety activist.

* Bob Nugent, the blindsided CEO of Jack in the Box who never dreamed that undercooked meat could kill.

* Brianne Kiner , a little girl sickened with E. coli who miraculously recovered from the brink of death, and her mother Suzanne Kiner, a woman determined to make the food industry listen to her daughter's story.

* Dave Theno, the scientist hired by Jack in the Box to design new safety procedures for the entire industry.

* Bob Piper, Jack-in-the-Box's larger-than-life defense attorney.

* Bill Marler, the young maverick lawyer representing Brianne Kiner, whose audacious and unconventional tactics would win her the largest class action settlement in Washington state history.

Painstakingly researched and gut-wrenchingly immediate, POISONED tells the story of a pivotal moment in American history, one that graphically demonstrated the dangers of food-borne illness and would leave the food industry forever changed. Part investigative journalism and part legal thriller, POISONED is the definitive chronicle of the 1993 food poisoning drama that gripped the nation.

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