February 27, 2024

E. coli at West Valley Federico’s Restaurant Harmed 94 People

E. coli O157:H7 infected scores of Federico’s restaurant customers at a lone location in the West Valley area of greater Phoenix in 2013, setting off a public health scramble to investigate an alarming case of food poisoning. According to an in-depth final report by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, 94 people were sickened, including at least two who suffered kidney failure and other life-threatening symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome, or E. coli HUS.

E. coli iStockphotoFederico’s Mexican Restaurant at 13132 W. Camelback Road in Litchfield Park — the only location in the Federico’s chain that was involved in the outbreak — temporarily closed its doors for a sanitary overhaul and food disposal soon after it was approached by public health officials about a strong correlation between an outbreak of toxic E. coli and restaurant attendance by the victims. In the final analysis, epidemiologists said contaminated lettuce was the likely source of E. coli transmission.

“Lettuce was by far the most suspect food item, and it is highly likely that it was the contaminated vehicle in this outbreak,” the report said.

County health officials also noted in the report that the restaurant’s handling of lettuce could have contributed to the magnitude of the outbreak.  “Improper lettuce washing and preparation at the restaurant may have contributed to the spread of disease,” the report said.

The outbreak was discovered July 30, 2013, by a hospital physician who reported to the health department that Phoenix had a cluster of cases with bloody diarrhea — the signature symptom of toxic E. coli infection. Further investigation revealed that the ill persons were members of a high school sports team and their families. The team shared a dinner at the restaurant on July 23 and others sickened in the outbreak ate at Federico’s in the West Valley between July 18-31. A total of 180 people were interviewed by the outbreak investigation team, including case controls.

According to the report, 23 percent of the victims in the West Valley Federico’s E. coli outbreak were hospitalized. But even those who were ill at home could suffer long-term health deficits from their exposure to the toxins delivered by E. coli O157:H7. Research has shown that one of the future risks is severe hypertension, or high blood pressure. Heart disease also is a concern for some E. coli survivors. Case patients of this outbreak can contact an E. coli lawyer at PritzkerOlsen Attorneys for a discussion of their legal options for financial recovery. Our firm represents E. coli outbreak victims and is one of the very few legal groups in the country that practices extensively in the area of foodborne illness litigation.

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