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Odwalla Apple Juice E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits

In October of 1996, Odwalla and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the company was recalling all Odwalla juice products containing unpasteurized apple juice. The recall was initiated after 13 reported cases of E. coli O157:H7 were linked to the consumption of Odwalla brand unpasteurized apple juice by the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health.

Investigators from the Washington Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other public health agencies conducted an epidemiologic investigation into the outbreak, and through testing found that more than 65 individuals were confirmed infected with E. coli. Of the reported cases, more than a dozen developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and one child died.

Environmental investigations by state and federal agencies did not uncover the exact source of the E. coli bacteria at Odwalla’s Dinuba, California, plant; however, FDA investigators did find numerous health and safety code violations that may have contributed to the spread of E. coli. FDA also found that the Odwalla plant accepted decayed fruit from suppliers.

In 1998, Odwalla was indicted and held criminally liable for the 1996 E. coli outbreak. The company plead guilty to 16 federal criminal charges and agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine. As a direct result of the outbreak, Odwalla began pasteurizing its juices, and the federal government now requires warning labels to be placed on all unpasteurized fruit and vegetable juice containers.

Marler Clark’s E. coli attorneys represented several children who suffered HUS and permanent kidney damage as a result of drinking E. coli-contaminated Odwalla apple juice. The majority of claims were resolved in early 2000 for a reported $12 million. The firm has since represented additional children injured during the outbreak in claims against the company.

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