An outbreak of food poisoning illness associated with mini quesadillas, mini pizza slices, mozzarella bites, philly cheese steaks and other frozen snack food from Rich Products still stands as the largest, multi-state outbreak of toxic E. coli so far in 2013 in the United States. And while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that the outbreak appears to be over, it is still cautioning consumers to clear their home freezers of any lingering inventory of recalled packages.
Rich Products Corporation of Buffalo, New York, began to recall its lines of Farm Rich® and Market Day® products in March, ultimately expanding it to include all food produced at its Waycross, Georgia plant. The recalled products were sold at Walmart stores nationwide and at dozens of other grocery stores including Alco, Food Lion, Food City, Price Chopper Ralph’s, Safeway, Schnuck’s, Supervalu, Target, and Winn Dixie. The bacteria traced to the outbreak was E. coli 0121, which can and did cause people to contract life-threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS.
A total of 35 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121 (STEC O121) were reported from 19 states. Young people were the most likely to be affected as 82 percent of ill persons were 21 years of age or younger. Of those who were confirmed to have infections, 31 percent were hospitalized, including two with HUS kidney failure. No deaths were reported.
Farm Rich E. coli litigation spawned by this outbreak is continuing, with parents of young people still seeking representation from food poisoning lawyers to enforce liability laws for the injuries to their children. In past E. coli outbreaks, individual awards in serious cases have topped $1 million.