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Michigan E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak Linked to Bagged Lettuce, Again. Food Safety Attorney, William Marler, Gives History Lesson.

This is a press release being distributed by Marler Clark:

Seattle— “E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks associated with lettuce or spinach, specifically the “pre-washed” and “ready-to-eat” varieties sold under various brand and trade names, are by no means a new phenomenon,” according to food-safety attorney, William D. Marler, of Marler Clark. By way of illustration:

• in October 2003, thirteen residents of a California retirement home were sickened, and two people died, after eating E. coli-contaminated, pre-washed spinach;

• in September 2003, nearly forty patrons of a California restaurant chain fell ill after eating salads prepared with bagged, pre-washed lettuce; and

• in July 2002, over fifty young women fell ill with E. coli O157:H7 at a dance camp after eating “pre-washed” lettuce, leaving several hospitalized and one with life-long kidney damage.

And this is just a small sampling of the twenty or more E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks since 1995 in which spinach or lettuce was the source.

Several more outbreaks linked to contaminated leafy-produce, including most recently the September 2005 Dole packaged lettuce outbreak, are identified in the chart below, which is based on information gathered by the Center for Science in the Public Interest:

8/93 Salad E. coli O157:H7 53 WA
7/95 Lettuce (leafy green; red; romaine) E. coli O157:H7 70 MT
9/95 Lettuce (romaine) E. coli O157:H7 20 ID
9/95 Lettuce (iceberg) E. coli O157:H7 39 ME
10/95 Lettuce (iceberg; unconfirmed) E. coli O157:H7 11 OH
5/96-6/96 Lettuce (mesclun; red leaf) E. coli O157:H7 61 CT, IL, NY
5/98 Salad E. coli O157:H7 2 CA
2/99-3/99 Lettuce (iceberg) E. coli O157:H7 72 NE
7/02-8/02 Lettuce (romaine) E. coli O157:H7 29 WA,ID
10/03-5/04 Lettuce (mixed salad) E. coli O157:H7 57 CA
4/04 Spinach E. coli O157:H7 16 CA
9/05 Lettuce (romaine) E. coli O157:H7 32 MN, WI, OR

The CSPI data base can be found here.

The most recent major E. coli outbreak ties to leafy greens was the Dole Spinach outbreak of 2006. This included 205 illnesses due to E. coli O157:H7 reported the CDC. This number included 31 cases of HUS, 102 hospitalizations, and 3 deaths. The FDA maintained its conclusion that all the implicated spinach was traced back to Salinas Valley in California.

“We never seem to learn,” said Mr. Marler. In November 2005, the FDA elucidated its past efforts and present concerns in its “Letter to California Firms that Grow, Pack, Process, or Ship Fresh and Fresh-Cut Lettuce.” The letter begins:

“This letter is intended to make you aware of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) serious concern with the continuing outbreaks of food borne illness associated with the consumption of fresh and fresh-cut lettuce and other leafy greens.”

The FDA efforts to lead the lettuce industry to safer practices were nothing new. In 1998, the FDA issued guidance to the industry entitled “Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fruits and Vegetables.” The guide is specifically designed to assist growers and packers in the implementation of safer manufacturing practices. On February 5, 2004, the FDA issued a letter to the lettuce and tomato industries to “make them aware of [FDA’s] concerns regarding continuing outbreaks associated with these two commodities and to encourage the industries to review their practices.”

BACKGROUND: Marler Clark has extensive experience representing victims of E. coli bacterial infections. The firm has represented over 1,000 E. coli victims since 1993, when William Marler represented HUS survivor Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million E. coli settlement with Jack in the Box. Since that time, Marler Clark has represented victims of E. coli outbreaks traced to ConAgra, AFG, Cub Foods, Supervalu, Carneco, Excel, Topps, Stop & Shop and other ground beef suppliers.

Contact: William D. Marler – 1-206-794-5043,

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