Pre-packaged lettuce linked to E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Minnesota


SEATTLE, WA -- Minnesota health officials are warning residents to throw out prepackaged Dole lettuce purchased from Rainbow Foods Stores in the Twin Cities area between September 13 and September 16 because the lettuce may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDOH) announced Friday that at least eleven people, ranging in age from 3 to 68 years old, had reported becoming ill after eating the contaminated lettuce; two were hospitalized. MDOH encouraged consumers to check their refrigerators for potentially contaminated product, and to throw away any Dole bags of lettuce with a “Best if Used by” stamp of 9/23/05 and a production code beginning in “B250…”

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Web site, between 1990 and 1999 there were ten foodborne illness outbreaks traced to the consumption of contaminated lettuce. In 2002, over fifty high school girls attending a dance camp at Eastern Washington University became ill with E. coli infections after eating contaminated lettuce. In 2003, over 50 people in San Diego, Orange and Riverside Counties in California became ill with E. coli infections after eating contaminated lettuce mix that was supplied to Pat & Oscar’s restaurants. A month later, thirteen residents of The Sequoias retirement facility, near San Jose, California, became ill after consuming E. coli-contaminated spinach. Ten were hospitalized, and three died after suffering complications of E. coli infection.

“Washing lettuce can reduce the risk of contamination by a foodborne pathogen such as E. coli O157:H7, but most people who buy prepackaged lettuce do not re-wash the product,” said William Marler, a Seattle attorney who has represented hundreds of E. coli victims since 1993, when he represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million settlement with Jack in the Box. “Consumers cannot be left as the last line of defense. Adulterated lettuce should not be making it into the hands of consumers – or retailers, for that matter – in the first place.”

Marler represented several families of small children who became ill with E. coli O157:H7 after eating E. coli-contaminated ground beef purchased at Cub Foods stores throughout Minnesota in 2000, and several victims of an E. coli outbreak in Alexandria, Minnesota, that was linked to food served at a buffet restaurant.

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BACKGROUND: Marler Clark has represented thousands of victims of foodborne illness outbreaks, including the most severely injured children who became ill with E. coli O157:H7 during the 2002 dance camp outbreak at EWU, and the 2003 Pat & Oscar’s outbreak, as well as one of the victims and the family of a woman who died during the outbreak at the Sequoias retirement facility. The firm represented eighty people who contracted hepatitis A after eating contaminated green onions at a Chi-Chi’s restaurant near Pittsburgh, PA, in 2003. Marler Clark has also represented victims of outbreaks linked to contaminated orange juice, cantaloupe, sprouts, and almonds.

More about the Dole lettuce E. coli outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.