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Bison meat victim files lawsuit

By Jill Blocker, Eat Drink and Be

July 16, 2010

Bison meat, a lower fat and cholesterol alternative to beef, isn’t commonly eaten by American consumers, but for one Colorado woman, the meat and its aftermath is still a little too familiar.

Claudette Murtha, of Colorado Springs, Colo., is the first to file a lawsuit related to the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak from bison meat, according to her lawyer. Murtha allegedly purchased Rocky Mountain Natural Meats' Great Range Brand Ground Bison meat in early June at a King Soopers grocery store. Two days after eating the meat she fell ill with a severe gastrointestinal illness, later confirmed as E. coli.

"Claudette is one of many more than just six people to have been sickened in this outbreak,” said R. Drew Falkenstein, Murtha's attorney from Marler Clark, on the law firm’s website. “Fortunately, she's had a good recovery so far, and it looks like she may escape this illness with no related permanent health problems.”

"Nevertheless, this outbreak raises significant issues from a public health standpoint," Falkenstein continued. "It involves an area of the retail meat production business that largely escapes regulatory scrutiny, and that should not be the case. Bison are ruminants just like cows, and they can harbor E. coli just like cows too. Hopefully this outbreak is a wakeup call to the regulatory system that there needs to be oversight of less-than-mainstream meat products like bison."

Rocky Mountain Natural Meats issued two recalls, on July 2 and 8, for a total of 66,776 pounds of bison meat. At least six people from New York and Colorado have been confirmed ill as connected by the outbreak.

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