October 27, 2016

First Lawsuit Filed Against Pizza Ranch After E. coli Outbreak

Pizza Dough and Flour E. coliThe first lawsuit against Pizza Ranch has been filed, following a recent E. coli outbreak that sickened 13 people in nine states. A national food safety law firm is representing the family of a 7-year-old girl who battled hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) from her E. coli infection during a two-week hospitalization. The suit was filed today, March 17, 2016, in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas (Case No. 2:16-cv-02170)

The Kansas girl was one of two children sickened in this outbreak to develop HUS, a complication from E. coli infections that most often affects children under 10.

About 15 percent of children with E. coli infections develop HUS, which causes blood cells to become misshapen and to die prematurely, clogging the kidneys causing kidney failure, heart attack, seizure, stroke and coma. For about 12 percent of children,  HUS is fatal.

According to the suit, the girl and her family ate at the Pizza Ranch in Emporia, Kansas on January 31, 2016.  A few days after this meal, she began developed the symptoms of an E. coli infection: stomach cramps and diarrhea that became bloody.

Her family brought her to a pediatrician who confirmed an E. coli infection by testing a stool sample. She was admitted to the hospital and remained there for two weeks.

“This outbreak highlights the need for stringent food safety controls in any restaurant but especially those chains that serve a large and geographically diverse population.  A large chain restaurant has the capacity to make a lot of people ill at once,” said food safety attorney Ryan Osterholm.

Dough used to make desserts is the suspected source of the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, which occurred between December 2015 and February 2016.  Pizza Ranch has discontinued using the dough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the outbreak over as the most recent illness was reported on February 9.

Illnesses were reported from Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, New Jersey, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Each state reported one case except Minnesota where five people were sickened.

This is not the first time dough contaminated with E. coli has been linked to an outbreak. In 2009, a 30-state E.coli outbreak linked to Nestle Tollhouse Cookie dough sickened 72 people.  Flour was suspected as the source of contamination in the dough. Thirty-four people were hospitalized in that outbreak, and 10 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

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