A Kentucky woman is the first person to file a lawsuit over illness allegedly connected to the ongoing multi-state E. coli outbreak. The woman reportedly ate beef contaminated with E. coli – beef included in a recent beef recall. Bad Food Recall has been closely following the outbreak, which is now impacting 10 states, and has provided updates on this developing situation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to search for the cause of the E. coli outbreak, which so far has been linked to raw ground beef, but at this time they are unable (or unwilling) to name a common cause or distribution point. In the meantime, multiple ground beef recalls have been issued.
The First E. Coli Lawsuit Follows Ground Beef Recall
The E. coli outbreak began in late March 2019, and as of the beginning of May 2019, only one person has filed a personal injury lawsuit. The plaintiff is seeking compensation for her claims of injury from the E. coli strain associated with this outbreak. She filed the lawsuit against K2D Foods, who does business as Colorado Premium Foods. K2D has issued a beef recall of ground beef in connection with E. coli contamination.
The lawsuit alleges that the woman became sick and required hospitalization after consuming ground beef tainted by E. coli. She believes Colorado Premium Foods distributed the beef that made her sick. Of her injuries, she claims:
- She was admitted to the hospital, where she remained for three days.
- Under treatment there, her kidneys began to fail.
- After her discharge, she had seizures at home.
- She was re-admitted to the hospital for further treatment.
The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $75,000 for what the plaintiff says is the result of the food company’s failure to properly test and monitor its food product, engineering a scenario in which consumers would get sick from consuming E. coli-tainted beef.
Latest Outbreak Information
The Kentucky woman’s suit is likely to be the first in an avalanche of litigation over E. coli-related illness. With every passing week since the CDC first identified the outbreak in March, the numbers of consumers reporting necessary hospital care for their illness has risen.
At this time, the CDC has confirmed:
- 177 people are infected and ill due to the E. coli strain O103.
- Victims have been reported in 10 different states.
- 21 people have been hospitalized.
- One woman claims to have suffered kidney failure.
- No deaths have been linked to the outbreak.
A New Day, A New Beef Recall
Two food distribution companies issued a ground beef recall within 24 hours of each other in connection with the E. coli outbreak. Both Grant Park Packing and Colorado Premium Foods have recalled a total of 56 tons of raw ground beef.
Grant Park Recall
Grant Park Packaging’s beef recall concerns more than 53,200 pounds of ground beef that may be contaminated with E. coli strain O103. Their recalled product shipped in 40-pound boxes. Consumers can identify the boxes by the following:
- The boxes are marked “North Star Imports & Sales, LLC. 100% Ground Beef Bulk 80% Lean/ 20% Fat.”
- The boxes say “For Institutional Use Only” and “GP.1051.18.”
- Inside the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection mark is printed “Est. 21781.”
- Some of the beef was shipped to Kentucky for use in restaurants, prisons, schools, or hospitals.
- Some beef was shipped to Minnesota where it was redistributed further.
Colorado Premium Recall
Colorado Premium Foods recalled 113,424 pounds of ground beef on the day before Grant Park Packaging announced their beef recall. Also known as K2D Foods, Colorado Premium Foods is the subject of the first lawsuit connected to the outbreak. The company shipped its product to restaurant distributors in Florida and Georgia before issuing their own beef recall. These packages can be identified by the following:
- The recalled beef was processed on March 26, March 29, April 2, April 5, April 10, and April 12, 2019.
- Some of the samples produced on these dates tested positive for E. coli strain O103.
- The CDC collected the sample that tested positive from a restaurant in Tennessee.
- The beef shipped in 24-pound packages.
- The boxes are marked “Ground Beef Puck.”
- The recalled beef is stamped with “Use Thru” dates of 4/14/19, 4/17/19, 4/20/19, 4/23/19, 4/28/19, and 4/30/19.
Right now, there is no known link between these two meat producers. The CDC and health officials conducted tests on “unopened, intact, packages of ground beef” that the agencies collected in the course of their weeks-long investigation of this outbreak. When the two company’s products tested positive for the E. coli strain that has been making people sick, they each issued a beef recall. It’s possible the two companies have a common supplier somewhere farther back in the food production chain, but at this point that is only speculation.
CDC Continuing Investigation
The CDC will continue their investigation and may announce definitively whether these food suppliers are the root cause of the outbreak. In any case, identifying two companies who distributed tainted ground beef means that there is less risk to consumers on store shelves or in restaurant kitchens.
It is important to keep in mind that the victims in this E. coli outbreak reported eating ground beef both at home and in restaurants. It is possible that more beef recalls will be issued as the investigation continues.
Is it Safe to Eat Ground Beef?
Despite the likelihood of even more victims, the CDC is actually not advising consumers to avoid ground beef so long as it is not the subject of a beef recall. Florida just joined the list of 10 states with reported victims linked to the E. coli outbreak. There are over 130 cases in Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee alone, but the official word from the CDC has remained the same. Above all else, handle ground beef safely and cook it thoroughly to avoid passing on any E. coli contamination.
Safe Handling of Ground Beef
The CDC urges consumers to remember that safe handling is the key to avoiding foodborne illnesses. Safe handling can even reduce the risk of serious illnesses like E. coli infection.
What To Do
Consumers can practice safe handling of ground beef by remembering to do the following:
- Cook ground beef thoroughly to kill bacteria.
- Wash hands with soap and hot water after touching raw ground beef.
- Sanitize kitchen surfaces and utensils that touch raw ground beef.
- Keep raw beef separated from ready-to-eat foods.
- Cook hamburgers, meatloaves, and casseroles to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
- Use a meat thermometer to verify internal temperature.
- Refrigerate cooked ground beef within two hours. Eat it within four days.
- Refrigerate or freeze ground beef within two hours of purchase.
- Store ground beef in an airtight container, such as a plastic bag, in the coldest part of your refrigerator. This is generally the back or a bottom shelf.
- Wash and sanitize your hands and all surfaces after dividing ground beef for freezing.
- Label your frozen ground beef with the date in which you stored it and its place of purchase.
What Not to Do
In contrast, there are also some things that you should avoid doing in order to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Consumers should never:
- Eat or serve raw ground beef.
- Eat, serve, buy, or sell recalled ground beef.
- Touch other kitchen items immediately after touching raw ground beef.
- Never assume you can tell if the meat is thoroughly cooked by its appearance. Use a meat thermometer.
- Never order a rare hamburger. Ask that your burger be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
- Thaw frozen ground beef at room temperature. The safest place to thaw meat is in the refrigerator.
- Re-freeze thawed ground beef. Cook it before putting it back in the freezer.
What to Do if You Have Symptoms of E. Coli Infection
Without a clear cause of the outbreak, all consumers are at risk of becoming ill. This is because the risk is present regardless of whether consumers have purchased or ate products that are included in a beef recall.
The symptoms of infection from O103 strain E. coli appear 3-4 days after consuming tainted food. Within that time, victims will be nauseous, vomiting, have stomach cramps, and may have bloody diarrhea. This strain of E. coli produces a Shiga toxin which can cause conditions that lead to kidney failure and death.
If you have symptoms of E. coli, or have consumed beef included in the current ground beef recalls, consider the following:
- Seek medical attention. E. coli infections can be serious.
- Record everything you ate in the week before your symptoms began.
- Report your illness to your local health department.
- Cooperate if requested to assist federal and state agencies in their investigation.
- Speak to an attorney about your illness and injuries.
Consult with a Beef Recall Attorney to Learn More
The impact of the E. coli outbreak and related beef recalls is expanding. At Bad Food Recall, we know that consumers have questions about their rights, and what to do if they have become ill. We are here to help.
If you have been diagnosed with E. coli, or have consumed a recalled product prior to it being recalled, contact us to speak with a food safety attorney. Schedule a free consultation by calling 1-877-534-5750, or by submitting our contact form online.