Norcross family sues Excel over meat tainted by E. coli

The family of a 12-year-old Norcross boy who was infected with a strain of E. coli bacteria after eating a tainted hamburger patty is suing Excel Corp. meatpacking company for $350,000.

Alexander White became sick and was hospitalized Dec. 23-27 after eating a hamburger tainted with the bacteria, according to the eight-page suit filed July 24 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta.

The meat, purchased at a Sam's Club store in Duluth, was packaged by Excel Corp. of Wichita, Kan.

"We take our role of food safety as a company very seriously," said David M. Zacks, the Atlanta attorney representing Excel, who received the lawsuit this week. He said he could not comment further while preparing a response to the allegations.

"Clearly, we not only take these allegations seriously, we take food safety seriously," he said.

Alexander was sickened by the same E. coli strain that affected three Georgia children in June after they ate meat packaged at Excel's Newnan packaging plant.

In June, the Newnan plant voluntarily recalled 190,811 pounds of ground beef and ground pork it supplied to Kroger supermarkets in the Southeast.

The Georgia Division of Public Health alerted federal agriculture regulators after the three Georgia children became ill.

Tests performed by the health officials later confirmed those children were infected with the same strain found in the Kroger meat.

The strain of E. coli bacteria --- O157:H7 --- is typically found in fecal matter of livestock and can sicken people who eat contaminated meat that has been under cooked.

Symptoms --- including bloody diarrhea, dehydration and abdominal pain --- typically develop within 11 days after eating contaminated meat or other products. The illness can be prevented by cooking ground meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.