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Lawsuit Filed in E. coli Cheese Outbreak

by Mary Rothschild, Food Safety News

Dec 09, 2010

A Colorado family's fall getaway to Arizona was unforgettable, but not in a good way.

Their horrible experience is recounted in a complaint filed Wednesday in Douglas County, CO, against Bravo Farms Cheeses, LLC, the California artisanal cheese-maker whose Gouda has been confirmed as the cause of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that sickened at least 38 people in five southwestern states.

The Kirby family's ordeal began Oct. 14, when 14-year-old "MK" and her mother, Lois, went shopping at a Costco warehouse store in Lone Tree. The teenager ate a sample of Bravo Farms Gouda offered to customers as part of a cheese promotion.

The family left town on Sunday, Oct. 17, heading to Arizona for vacation. During the ride MK began to feel ill and then developed stomach cramps and diarrhea. The family made frequent stops at rest areas and other sites with restrooms. By the time they arrived at their hotel, MK's symptoms had become frighteningly acute.

MK was taken to a local urgent care clinic, which could not identify the cause of her illness. Back at the hotel, she did not improve and when her diarrhea turned bloody, her parents rushed her to Phoenix Children's hospital. After hours spent receiving intravenous fluids and narcotic pain medication, MK was again released when doctors conceded they couldn't do much more to help.

For the rest of the vacation, the Kirbys' entire focus was on their ailing daughter. The trip home had to be delayed because MK could not endure the ride back.

Even after returning to Colorado, MK continued to suffer symptoms of what was later confirmed as an E. coli O157:H7 infection. MK required additional care by her regular pediatrician and continues to recover from her illness.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of MK by Montgomery Little & Soran of Greenwood, CO, and Marler Clark of Seattle.

Bravo Farms recalled its raw milk-based Gouda cheese. After a subsequent investigation by federal health authorities found evidence of E. coli and Listeria, the Traver, CA-based company recalled its entire inventory.

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