Escherichia coli is a group of bacteria that normally inhabits the digestive tract of healthy people. Most strains are harmless, however others can cause a myriad of health issues, including dangerous foodborne illness.
Some strains, including one called E. Coli O157:H7, produce a toxin that can cause severe inflammation of the colon (colitis). There are over 100 similarly dangerous strains, though this particular strain is the most commonly contracted E. Coli pathogen in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), this single pathogen causes an estimated 96,000 illnesses, and 3,200 hospitalizations, adding up to $405 million in annual healthcare expenses.
E. coli bacteria are primarily transmitted by consuming contaminated food, such as undercooked meat products, raw milk and raw vegetables and sprouts.
Some food products are considered “high-risk“, including undercooked ground beef, which is one of the most common sources of infection. Other foods highly susceptible to contamination:
• Sprouts (as well as other raw vegetables like lettuce and spinach)
• Raw milk (unpasteurized)
• Juice (unpasteurized)
• Soft cheeses and yoghurt (made from raw milk)
• Dried cured salami
Poor hygiene can also be a cause of infection as fecal matter can contain a large number of E. coli bacteria.
People of any age can be infected, however young children and older adults, and others with a weakened immune system are more likely to develop complications such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This advanced infection, which affects about 5 percent of at-risk people, destroys red blood cells, causing damage to kidneys. HUS can require intensive care, kidney dialysis, and even blood transfusions.
Joe Lyon is a highly rated and experienced Cincinnati Personal Injury Lawyer who has represented numerous individuals in serious product liability and catastrophic injury cases.
Infections due to E. coli typically present with symptoms roughly 3 days after ingesting the pathogen, but can be as long as 10 days. It usually resolves on its own in 1 to 8 days, unless there are complications.
Typical symptoms include:
• Abdominal cramps
• Watery diarrhea
Infections can cause death in rare occasions. The CDC reports about 31 people die from E. coli-related illnesses each year.
The CDC lists contaminated food as the most common source of E. coli O157:H7, accounting for 65 percent of infection cases. The most common food source is beef, which has been identified in 55 percent of E. coli outbreaks. The next closest sources are leafy greens (21 percent) and dairy (11 percent).
Some recent outbreaks include:
• In November, 2015, nineteen people in 7 states were infected with E. coli in contaminated Chicken Salad sold by Costco, and later recalled by Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. Five people were hospitalized and two developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
• In October, 2015, 55 people from 11 states contracted E. coli after eating at Chipotle Mexican Grill.
• Nineteen people reported E. coli infections in 2014 after consuming contaminated raw clover sprouts. The producer, Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, is no longer using the same seed lot from the contaminated batch.
• In May 2014, Wolverine Packing Company recalled 1.8 million pounds of ground beef products. Twelve people were infected by beef contaminated with E. coli.
If you or a loved one suffered from severe food poisoning or a related food liability injury and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care, contact The Lyon Firm (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.