All News / Outbreaks /


Nearly 55 outbreaks have been linked to fresh fruits, vegetables, or salads between 1990 and 1998. Then, in July 2002, over 50 young women were stricken with E. coli at a dance camp after eating "pre-washed" lettuce, leaving several hospitalized and one with life-long kidney damage.

In September 2003, nearly 40 patrons of a California restaurant chain became ill after eating salads prepared with bagged, "pre-washed" lettuce. 13 residents of a California retirement center were sickened after eating E.coli-contaminated "pre-washed" spinach in October 2003. 2 residents died.

Then, in 2005, cases of E. coli infections were reported in Wisconsin, Oregon, and Minnesota. The source of the infection was determined to be prewashed, precut, bagged salad mixes manufactured by the Dole Food Company. The FDA issued a Nationwide Health Alert and recalled the products – Classic Romaine, American Blend, and Greener Selection.

The FDA had been trying for some time to alert the California produce industry about the need for safety precautions, but there had been little response from growers. The FDA identified 18 outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 associated with fresh or fresh-cut lettuce, resulting in 409 illnesses and two deaths, since 1995. Eight of the outbreaks were traced back to Salinas, California.

Further research indicated that industry practices, including irrigation and field drainage methods, may have led directly to the contamination of the lettuce with E. coli O157:H7 due to sewage exposure, animal waste, and other contaminated water sources.

As a result, the FDA stated that it considers any ready-to-eat crops that have come in contact with flood waters to be "adulterated". The FDA warned industry members that food produced under unsanitary conditions will be considered "adulterated, and that enforcement actions would be considered.

Get Help

Affected by an outbreak or recall?

The team at Marler Clark is here to answer all your questions. Find out if you’re eligible for a lawsuit, what questions to ask your doctor, and more.

Get a free consultation
Related Resources
E. coli Food Poisoning

What is E. coli and how does it cause food poisoning? Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a highly studied, common species of bacteria that belongs to the family Enterobacteriaceae, so...

E. coli O157:H7

E. coli O157:H7 is a foodborne pathogen that causes food poisoning. E. coli O157:H7 is the most commonly identified and the most notorious Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) serotype in...

Non-O157 STEC

Non-O157 Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli can also cause food poisoning. E. coli O157:H7 may be the most notorious serotype of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), but there are at least...

Sources of E. coli

Where do E. coli O157:H7 and non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) come from? The primary reservoirs, or ultimate sources, of E. coli O157:H7 and non-O157 STEC in nature are...

Transmission of and Infection with E. coli

While many dairy cattle-associated foodborne disease outbreaks are linked to raw milk and other raw dairy products (e.g., cheeses, butter, ice cream), dairy cattle still represent a source of contamination...

Outbreak Database

Looking for a comprehensive list of outbreaks?

The team at Marler Clark is here to answer all your questions. Find out if you’re eligible for a lawsuit, what questions to ask your doctor, and more.

View Outbreak Database