The City of Milwaukee Health Department was contacted by Children’s Hospital on July 24, 2000 regarding a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 cases. Eventually, sixty-four confirmed cases were discovered – 62 linked to the Layton, Wisconsin, Sizzler and two linked to the Mayfair, Wisconsin, Sizzler. Dozens of these individuals were hospitalized; four developed HUS and one died. In addition to the confirmed cases, the State noted that there were reports of 551 probable cases, and another 122 possible cases.
Sixty-two of the laboratory-confirmed cases were found to be genetically indistinguishable – proving that all of the cases had a common source. An identical strain of E. coli O157:H7 was isolated from samples of raw chunky taco meat and sirloin tri-tips found at the Layton restaurant. This meat was manufactured by the Excel Corporation, and then remanufactured at the local Sizzler franchisee according to procedures defined by Sizzler USA.
The Wisconsin State Department of Health determined the outbreak’s source to be fresh watermelon that had been cross-contaminated with raw meat products. Sirloin tri-tips were the source of the E. coli bacteria, and the Department of Health concluded that employees at Sizzler restaurants may have contributed to the outbreak.
Marler Clark represented seventeen individuals in lawsuits against Sizzler USA, and Excel Corp., who supplied the contaminated tri-tips to Sizzler. The last of the cases were resolved in March, 2006.
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You can read more about the Sizzler E. coli outbreak on the Marler Clark-sponsored site about E. coli.