Survivor of Fairbank Farms E. coli Outbreak Files Lawsuit in Maine


Elderly victim spent over a month in the hospital

A woman severely sickened in a 2009 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef filed a lawsuit today against Ashville, NY-based Fairbank Reconstruction Corporation, doing business as Fairbank Farms Inc., which produced the tainted meat. The lawsuit was filed in the Maine District Court by the plaintiff’s attorneys, Bill Marler of foodborne illness law firm Marler Clark, and Peter Felmley of the Portland firm Drummond, Woodsum, & MacMahon.

In late October 2009, Fairbank Farms recalled 545,699 pounds of ground beef contaminated with toxic E. coli O157:H7. A joint investigation between the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and several state health departments determined that the contaminated meat was responsible for 2 deaths and at least 25 E. coli illnesses in 10 states, most of them in New England.

In September 2009, 88-year-old Alice Smith purchased the tainted meat at Shaw’s grocery store in Portland. She stored it in her freezer, and consumed it in early November. She fell ill with symptoms of E. coli infection, and was hospitalized. She then developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening complication of E. coli infection that often results in kidney failure. She remained in the hospital for over a month and is still recovering from her illness. Samples taken while she was hospitalized revealed that she had been infected with the strain of E. coli associated with the Fairbank Farms outbreak.

“This was a terrible outbreak that caused enormous loss,” said Marler. “Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. Just this week, West Missouri Beef recalled 14,000 pounds of E. coli-contaminated beef products. Our job is two-fold: work to take care of those who have been sickened by this pathogen, and work to eliminate it from our food supply.”