September 21, 2019

Law Firm Retained in Minnesota E. coli O111 Outbreak

A Minneapolis law firm that represents food poisoning clients throughout the country, has been retained in the E. coli O111 outbreak associated with Applebee’s restaurants in the Twin Cities. Keith Comstock, a young man who lives in the area, was sickened after he ate at the Applebee’s restaurant in Woodbury.

GavelsNoted food safety attorney Fred Pritzker said, “my firm has represented thousands of foodborne illness victims in hundreds of outbreaks across the country. Virtually all of them involve failure to follow the rules: FDA regulations and USDA regulations, industry guidelines, and worst of all, the offending company’s own safety rules. The sad fact of this outbreak, like so many others, is that it’s preventable; it should never have happened.”

E. coli O111 is not one of the pathogenic bacteria that labs commonly test for when a patient goes to the doctor. The outbreak may be much larger than first thought because doctors usually test for E. coli O157:H7 when a patient presents with symptoms of severe abdominal cramps and bloody and/or watery diarrhea. If a test for E. coli O157:H7 is negative, physicians will usually approach the diagnosis from another direction.

Applebee’s restaurants have pulled the Oriental Chicken Salad from their menu, as well as ingredients used in that item from other foods. Chicken is not usually a source of E. coli outbreaks, so, according to  Pritzker, the likely culprit is a fresh vegetable with no cooking, or “kill step”, to destroy pathogenic bacteria. The contaminated food could be anything from lettuce to carrots to another fresh vegetable.

If a vegetable is to blame, that means the contamination could have occurred further back in the food chain, with a larger distribution than Applebee’s restaurants. Other E. coli outbreaks linked to vegetables have been very large, since the adulterated food is usually shipped around the country. Traceback, the tool investigators use to find a contaminated food after an outbreak, is time consuming and costly. Public health officials are now conducting an investigation to pinpoint not only the food responsible for these illnesses, but where it came from and how it was contaminated.

If you have had the symptoms of an E. coli infection, which include severe abdominal cramps and bloody and/or watery diarrhea, with a mild fever or no fever, see your doctor as soon as possible. Tell her about this outbreak and ask to be tested for E. coli O111, especially if you ate ready-to-eat salads or fresh, uncooked vegetables at a restaurant recently.

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