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Family that got sick sues meat-packer

December 8, 2000


A sailor and his family who got sick after eating meat that may have been tainted with E. coli bacteria sued a meat packing company Thursday.

The couple said they purchased the meat from Cub Foods in Waukegan.

Reginald Burton Jr., a sailor at Great Lakes Naval Station who lives on the base, his wife, Tasha, and their daughter are plaintiffs in the suit, filed in Green Bay, Wis. It charges American Foods Group Inc. of Green Bay with negligence and product liability for shipping the meat to Cub, said the family's attorney, Bill Marler.

"I think it is really important to know what this meat supplier knew and when they knew it," Marler said.

American Foods Group Inc. has voluntarily recalled 1.1 million pounds of ground beef prepared at the Green Bay plant in early November.

American Foods said it has found no evidence the E. coli bacteria entered the ground beef on its premises.

Susan Finco, a spokeswoman for the meat-packer, said this is the first lawsuit she has been made aware of during the recent outbreak. Finco said she could not comment on the lawsuit because the company had not seen it.

Marler, a Seattle-based attorney who specializes in E. coli cases, said the Burtons and their 1-year-old daughter became ill just before Thanksgiving after cooking a dinner of sloppy Joes with meat purchased from Cub.

Marler said the family was examined by a doctor who made a clinical diagnosis that they had been infected with E. coli.

Marler said the family experienced intense flulike symptoms for 1 1/2 weeks.

Tasha Burton said her family still is experiencing occasional cramps and pains. She said she was angry with the meat packing company after she realized what happened.

"I was mad they would let something like that slide through, knowing that it is killing people," she said.

The young mother said she still is reluctant to buy meat for her family.

The number of people sickened by the E. coli outbreak involving ground beef bought at Cub Foods has risen to 30. Cases have been confirmed in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Contributing: Associated Press

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