SEATTLE — Health officials suspect a recent outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 at four Pat & Oscars restaurants in San Diego to be linked to pre-mixed packaged lettuce served in salads at the restaurants. This finding has prompted William Marler, the Seattle attorney widely known for his representation of victims of foodborne illness, to call on the Food and Drug Administration to fund research to make fresh produce safe to be consumed by the public.
“The lettuce suspected to be the source of this most recent outbreak was ‘three-times pre-washed,’ but we have seen that washing lettuce isn’t enough to protect consumers from contaminated produce,” said Marler. “We cannot tolerate the risks that lettuce and other fresh produce may pose to the American public – especially the very young, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems.”
In the January 2002 edition of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, scientists learned that “lettuce that has been fertilized with manure or irrigated with water contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 can take the bacteria up through its root system and internalize it inside the leaves, resisting traditional external sanitizing methods.”
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s website, since 1990 there have been at least 17 produce-related food-borne pathogen-related outbreaks, many directly related to the consumption of E. coli O157:H7 contaminated lettuce.
“The FDA must fund research at our land grant universities to help eliminate these risks,” said Marler. “And there is no reason that we, as consumers, should accept adulterated lettuce entering the food supply.”
Victims of E. coli O157:H7 infections suffer from severe stomach cramping, nausea, and bloody diarrhea. Although most people recover from their infections, about 5-10% of infected individuals goes on to develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (“HUS”), a severe life-threatening complication. HUS is now recognized as the most common cause of kidney failure in childhood, and is responsible for over 90% of the cases of HUS that develop in North America.
Marler Clark has extensive experience representing victims of E. coli illnesses. William Marler represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million E. coli settlement with Jack in the Box in 1993. In 1998, Marler Clark resolved the Odwalla Juice E. coli outbreak for the five families whose children developed HUS and were severely injured after consuming contaminated apple juice for $12 million. The partners at Marler Clark also speak frequently on a variety of food safety issues. Marler Clark is also proud to sponsor the informational web sites of www.about-ecoli.com and www.foodborneillness.com.
More about the Gold Coast Produce lettuce E. coli outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.