August 25, 2019

Minnesota E. coli Lawsuit Addresses 2014 Applebee’s Outbreak

The Minnesota Department of Health investigated an E. coli O111 outbreak in 2014 that led to a lawsuit against Apple Minnesota, LLC d/b/a Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar. State epidemiologists traced the mid-summer outbreak to food served at Applebee’s restaurants, then narrowed their focus to whole head green cabbage, an ingredient in Oriental Chicken Salad. From there, the FDA took over the investigation but no results have been published by the agency as to the origin of the tainted cabbage or the source of contamination.

GavelsThe initial Minnesota Health press release on July 14 discussed 13 cases that were under review, but officials later upped the number of Minnesotans sickened in the outbreak to 15. The illnesses were confirmed between June 24 and July 10 and four of the outbreak patients were hospitalized. Applebee’s customer Keith Comstock, who is represented by attorneys at the PritzkerOlsen law firm in Minneapolis, reported eating Oriental Chicken Salad. The restaurants temporarily removed the dish from menus until ingredient suppliers were changed, according to the lawsuit.

Minnesota health officials said the outbreak strain of E. coli O111, a type of E. coli that emits harmful Shiga toxins, had never been seen before in the United States. “The common food item across all foods consumed by cases was green whole head cabbage,” the health department said in its final explanation of the outbreak, which included a case patient who dined at another Minnesota restaurant. The Applebee’s case patients were from around the state, including northern locations as well as the Twin Cities. Restaurants involved in the outbreak are located in Blaine, Duluth, Monticello, Roseville and Woodbury. The health department said the cabbage was likely contaminated before it was delivered to restaurants. A common out-of-state supplier was traced to source the cabbage.

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