Cargill E.coli Outbreak and Litigation - Multistate (2018)


The CDC, public health and regulatory officials in several states, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) investigated a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O26 (E. coli O26) infections.

As of September 19, 2018, 18 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O26 were reported from 4 states.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from July 5, 2018 to July 25, 2018. Ill people ranged in age from one year to 75, with a median age of 16. Sixty-seven percent of ill people were male. Of 18 people with information available, 6 (33%) were hospitalized, including one person who died in Florida.

Whole Genome Sequence (WGS) analysis of isolates from 13 ill people did not identify any antibiotic resistance.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicates that ground beef from Cargill Meat Solutions was a likely source of this outbreak.

In interviews, ill people answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became ill. Fourteen (100%) of 14 people interviewed reported eating ground beef. Ill people purchased ground beef from several different grocery stores.

USDA-FSIS conducted traceback investigations from stores where ill people reported buying ground beef. Initial information collected from ill people in Florida indicated that the ground beef was purchased from various Publix grocery stores. On August 30, 2018, Publix Super Markets, Inc. recalled ground chuck products sold in several Florida counties.

Further traceback investigation by USDA-FSIS identified Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan, Colorado as the source of the contaminated ground beef linked to illness, including the recalled ground beef sold at Publix stores in Florida. On September 19, 2018, Cargill Meat Solutions recalled ground beef products that were produced and packaged on June 21, 2018. Products are labeled with the establishment number “EST. 86R” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The products were shipped to retailers nationwide. Visit the USDA-FSIS website for a list of recalled products.

Laboratory testing identified the outbreak strain of E. coli O26 in leftover ground beef collected from the home of one ill person in Florida. WGS analysis showed that the E. coli O26 strain identified in the leftover ground beef was highly related genetically to the E. coli O26 strain isolated from ill people.

Marler Clark represented 2 vicitms of this outbreak and successfully settled both of the cases in 2019.