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E. coli lawsuit filed against Organic Pastures

Marler ClarkMarler Clark filed two E. coli lawsuits against Organic Pastures on February 7, 2008. The lawsuits were filed in Fresno County Superior Court on behalf of two children who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) secondary to E. coli O157:H7 infection after consuming Organic Pastures raw milk.

The California Department of Health Services
(CDHS) and California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) conducted an investigation into the E. coli outbreak in September of 2006. CDHS and CDFA identified six children who had become ill with either E. coli O157:H7 or HUS and learned that all six had consumed Organic Pastures raw milk or colostrum in the days before becoming ill.

While investigating the cause of the children’s illness, pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), or “genetic fingerprinting” confirmed that five of the six children were infected with the same strain of E. coli; the sixth did not test positive for E. coli but had HUS. An investigation at Organic Pastures led to the discovery that several cows were infected with E. coli O157:H7, although the strain was different from the outbreak strain. CDHS determined that unpasteurized dairy products from Organic Pastures were the likely source of the outbreak.

Eleven-year-old Lauren Herzog and 9-year-old Chris Martin both consumed raw milk produced by Organic Pastures in early September of 2006. Lauren became ill with symptoms of E. coli infection on September 6. Her illness subsequently developed into HUS, a life-threatening complication of E. coli infection that can cause kidney failure and central nervous system impairment, and she was hospitalized on September 8. Lauren suffered acute renal failure and required approximately two weeks of daily kidney dialysis. She remained hospitalized until October 18, 2006, when she was discharged with over $250,000 in medical bills.

Chris became ill with symptoms of E. coli infection on September 5, 2006 and he was hospitalized on September 7. Like Lauren, Chris suffered HUS. His condition worsened and he was transported by helicopter to a Children’s hospital and was placed in pediatric intensive care. Chris’ kidneys failed and he required weeks of daily dialysis, as well as multiple blood transfusions. He was placed on a ventilator as a result of impending congestive heart failure, and remained on the ventilator for five days, was briefly taken off the ventilator, and later returned for several more days. Chris suffered a number of seizures as a result of his HUS. He also developed high blood pressure and pancreatitis. Chris was discharged from the hospital on November 2, 2006, nearly two months after he was admitted, with over $450,000 in medical bills.

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