Connecticut Post | By Susan Shultz | June 27, 2023
On Dec. 24, 1992, 6-year-old Lauren Rudolph was hospitalized with excruciating stomach pain. Less than a week later she was dead.
Doctors were baffled: How could a healthy child become so sick so quickly? After a frenzied investigation, public health officials announced that the cause was E. coli O157:H7; the source was hamburger meat served at a Jack in the Box restaurant.
During this unprecedented crisis, four children died and more than 700 others became gravely ill.
Author Jeff Benedict, who serves as the Garde Arts Center’s sole writer in residence, penned this story over a decade ago. Though he had previously published several non-fiction books, Benedict originally chose to self-publish “Poisoned,” which has since been picked up by Simon & Schuster due to its impact.
Benedict said while he felt the story was important at the time, he realized why his representatives felt it might not initially be a commercial success. However, he knew the story had to be told.
Now, 12 years later, the documentary film has been co-produced by Netflix. The new movie “Poisoned” is based on Benedict’s book. The film chronicles the events surrounding the worst food-poisoning epidemic in US history: the deadly Jack in the Box E. coli infections of 1993.
It first debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this month. Though Netflix doesn’t usually screen its productions in a traditional movie theater set-up, Benedict opted for this special debut at the Garde due to his close relationship with the organization.
“It’s a chance to see the film in the way that films were meant to be seen,” Benedict said.
The Garde & Netflix will present “Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food” in an exclusive theatrical movie premiere on June 28 at 7:30 p.m., followed by a post-film discussion and book signing.
The film will go directly to the source, following the distribution trail from start to finish, examining where the process breaks down, as well as the bureaucratic red tape and collusion among lobbyists and lawmakers who worked against addressing this life-or-death problem. Benedict said the case caused an immeasurable impact on the way fast food restaurants source and prepare their meals.
Also included in the evening is the book and film’s lead character, William Marler. Since his involvement in the Jack in the Box case, he has become the most prominent foodborne illness lawyer in America. He is also a major force in food policy in the U.S. and around the world.
Marler began litigating foodborne illness cases in 1993 when he represented Brianne Kiner, the most seriously injured survivor of the historic Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak.
Paul Mecurio will serve as moderator. He is an Emmy & Peabody Award-winning comedian for his work on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “The Colbert Report,” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
Following the event, Benedict will sign copies of the book.
Netflix will include the movie in its documentary rotation during 2023, though no release date has been announced.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit gardearts.org/events/poisoned.
About the author
Jeff Benedict is the best-selling author of “Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat;” he’s also an executive producer on the documentary. Benedict is the author of 17 non-fiction books, including his latest book “Lebron,” an instant New York Times bestseller. He also wrote the no. 1 bestseller “Tiger Woods,” the source of the Emmy-nominated HBO documentary “Tiger,” which he produced. Benedict also wrote “The Dynasty,” the definitive inside story of the New England Patriots under Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady; it is currently being made into a 10-part documentary series for Apple TV+. Benedict is a writer-in-residence at The Garde Arts Center.
About the Garde
Southeastern Connecticut’s non-profit home for the performing arts, cinema and education, the Garde Arts Center was founded in 1985 to save, restore and operate in the heart of downtown New London the historic (1926) Garde Theater and Building as a regional cultural gathering place and economic catalyst.
Last year, the Garde was recognized by The League of Historic American Theatres (LHAT), as the 2022 Outstanding Historic Theatre in America at its 46th Annual National Conference in Cleveland, Ohio.