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E. coli victim to sue lettuce supplier

Megha Satyanarayana

Detroit Free Press October 9, 2008

A Michigan State University student sickened by E. coli-tainted lettuce in September is suing Aunt Mid’s Produce of Detroit, which the state identified as a restaurant and institutional supplier of the lettuce. The toxic strain of E.coli has sickened 36 people in Michigan to date, said Department of Community Health spokesperson James McCurtis.

Samantha Steffen of East Lansing began suffering from bloody diarrhea and was hospitalized with dehydration in mid-September. A stool sample confirmed the presence of E. coli O157:H7.

After being named in early October, Aunt Mid’s voluntarily stopped its distribution and hired an outside tester to inspect its product and processing facilities, which came up clean. The Michigan Department of Agriculture did their own testing and confirmed the findings, but, “we never had product available that was tested from the outbreak timeframe, primarily due to the perishable nature of the product we dealt with,” said Jennifer Holton, MDA spokesperson.

Steffen’s lawyer, William Marler, has criticized Aunt Mid’s for not releasing the name of their supplier.

“At this point, based on testing … I don’t believe the lawsuit has any merit,” said Aunt Mid’s Chief Executive Officer Philip Riggio.

The Michigan outbreak began at MSU and the Lenawee County jail, before spreading through southeast and mid Michigan, with several cases in the metro Detroit area. Aunt Mid’s has also been tied to six illnesses from an Illinois restaurant. Other related E. coli cases have emerged in Oregon, New York and Ohio.

The state is still looking into other suppliers, said McCurtis

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