On December 1, 2000, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDOH) issued a press release stating that 17 Minnesota citizens had been infected with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 that November. Most of the individuals reported having consumed ground beef from SuperValu/Cub Food stores, and showing signs of infection days later. At the urging of state health officials, SuperValu/Cub Foods removed all fresh ground beef products from its stores in affected areas within Minnesota.
On December 4, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that American Foods Group (AFG) was recalling 1.1 million pounds of ground beef for potential E. coli contamination. The recalled meat was manufactured at AFG’s Wisconsin meat plants, and supplied to stores throughout the Midwest and Southeast United States. The recall was initiated after a preliminary investigation by both MDOH and FSIS indicated that ground beef produced at the plant in early November 2000 was likely contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Health linked three reports of Wisconsin E. coli O157:H7 cases to those reported in Minnesota. The final report completed and released by MDOH on the November 2000 outbreak concluded:
This was a multi-state outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections caused by ground beef produced by American Foods Group . . . In Minnesota AFG was implicated through store grind records for retail ground beef from which E. coli O157:H7 had been isolated. . . . AFG plant (establishment 410) was the only common point in the distribution system that could explain all of the cases associated with SuperValu.
Marler Clark represented five families in claims against AFG, Supervalu, or Cub foods in connection to the Minnesota and Wisconsin E. coli outbreak.