E. coli outbreak linked to steaks sold door-to-door


SEATTLE, WA -- An E. coli O157:H7 outbreak has been linked to mechanically-tenderized steaks sold in several Midwestern states. Five individuals in Minnesota, Kansas, and Michigan have reportedly developed E. coli infections, with one person hospitalized. The steaks were distributed to restaurants, institutions, and retail stores nationwide, as well as to consumers through door-to-door sales by Farmers Pride Meat Company under the brand name Home Chef’s Selections. The state Departments of Health are investigating the outbreak, and Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm nationally known for its successful representation of victims of foodborne illness, is following the investigation.

E. coli is usually associated with ground beef. But steaks have been implicated in past outbreaks, as well—most notably in the Milwaukee Sizzler E. coli outbreak in 2000 in which intact cuts of meat are thought to have been the source of contamination. In May, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled that E. coli O157:H7 surface contamination of steaks constitutes adulteration under federal law, and that beef producers can be held accountable when steaks are implicated in an outbreak.

“Victims of E. coli infections deserve to be compensated for what they go through,” said Denis Stearns, a partner with Marler Clark, and the attorney who represents 14 victims from the Sizzler outbreak. “Even when steak is a vehicle of transmission directly through cross-contamination of other food, like in the Sizzler case, the beef producer can still be held liable for victims’ illnesses, and should be. There is no reason that we, as consumers, should accept adulterated meat 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.

“There is something particularly disturbing in that a consumer who purchases a product sold door-to-door is dealing with a company that they are particularly asked to trust. Being sickened by meat bought this way is a huge violation of that trust,” Stearns concluded.

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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.