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Outbreak: E.coli Infection Rocks Costco

Unfortunately, everyone’s favorite food sampling warehouse has just been evaluated by the CDC because of an outbreak of E. coli infections linked to their chicken salad. In fact, at least 19 people in seven states may have been infected by E. coli after eating rotisserie chicken salad sold at Costco Wholesale Corp’s stores. While there have been no deaths reported, two people have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, which is a type of kidney failure that can lead to permanent organ damage. Five people have also been hospitalized.

These infections have been reported in Montana, Utah, Colorado, California, Missouri, Virginia, and Washington. And while Costco has halted chicken sales after the CDC informed the food giant about the infection, the current number of HUS cases is twice what is normally seen with E. coli O157:H7, the pathogen identified in the outbreak. This means that there is a probability that the number of ill will likely go up because HUS cases are easier to track.

The history of this specific strain of the infection includes a 1993 outbreak that killed four children who ate undercooked hamburgers at Jack in the Box restaurants. Food poisoning such as the HUS infection is most detrimental to children and the elderly because of their weaker immune systems [1].

Additionally, Costco last year was linked to a salmonella outbreak caused

by chicken products it sold in at least nine states. The contaminated chicken was supplied to Costco by California-based Foster Poultry Farms. The Defense Department, at the time, awarded this company with $190.4 million worth of contracts for poultry products from 2003 through 2012, according to the government procurement website USASpending.gov. During this period of time, Foster Farms recalled their contaminated chicken for the first time because of the amount of cases linked to the infectious disease. The outbreak roiled the public and brought regulatory pressure on the producer as the outbreak was linked to 821 cases in 29 states and Puerto Rico [2].

This current outbreak of E. coli at Costco comes days after health officials linked the popular burrito chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. to more than 40 cases of E. coli O26 food poisoning in six states. No HUS or deaths have been reported in that case.

History of Past Outbreaks

  • January 5, 2000– Seattle & King County issues a notice to Washington residents that three people have been confirmed ill with Shigella infections after eating five-layer dip manufactured by Senor Felix Gourmet Mexican Foods and sold under several brand names in multiple stores including Costco. Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella. Most who are infected with the disease develop diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps starting a day or two after they are exposed to the bacteria. The FDA issued a nationwide warning regarding the contaminated dip on January 27, 2000, and announced that 49 cases of Shigellosis associated with the consumption of Senor Felix dips had been reported in California, Oregon, and Washington where five patients were hospitalized. In its entirety, Health officials ultimately identified 406 people with Shigella infections who had eaten the dip in the week prior to illness. Cases were reported in ten states and after an investigation of the processing facility, the information revealed several problems with manufacturing practices and quality control.
  • May 12, 2004-The Oregon State Public Health Laboratory identified a cluster of five patients infected with a genetically indistinguishable strain of Salmonella Enteritidis through pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) testing. These five patients were from four Oregon counties and had onsets of illness that was linked to consuming Kirkland Signature brand raw almonds, purchased at Costco stores, and produced as well as manufactured by Paramount Farms. After a case-controlled study was performed, officials were able to conclude a definitive source of the outbreak to the almonds purchased at Costco. More investigation by Oregon health officials, the CDC and other state public health agencies in the documentations of at least 29 patients in 12 states and Canada with matching infectious cases dated back at least a year earlier. Due to this, Paramount Farms recalled an estimated 18 million pounds of raw almonds.
  • November 2010– The CDC and the FDA announced that Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda Cheese sold and sampled at Costco Wholesale stores in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico was the source of E. coli O157: H7 outbreak. Of those people infected, at least 38 people in the 5 states mentioned became ill with a unique strain of the infectious disease that had never been seen in the CDC’s PulseNet database. These cases are linked to the various states where Costco had a “cheese road show”. In a notable move, U.S. marshals and FDA agents raided Bravo Farms and seized the gouda, along with piles of edam and blocks of white cheddar on January 27, 2011. Investigators seized more than 80,000 pounds of cheese with the intent of disposing of it as garbage and reported numerous food safety violations at the facility. In addition, 15 of 24 cheese samples collected tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, which is another serious infectious disease that can be fatal for children and the elderly [3].

Food Safety

When two or more people get the same illness from the same contaminated food or drink, the event is called a foodborne disease outbreak. In recent years, large multistate or nationwide foodborne disease outbreaks have become more commonly recognized due to improved surveillance systems in the US and the changing patterns in global food production. While state departments and national agencies have become better at identifying issues that would previously gone amiss, changing patterns in global food productions have resulted in food being distributed over large distances. This change, combined with increasing integration and consolidation of agriculture and food production, can result in a contaminated food rapidly causing a geographically widespread outbreak.

Once a contaminated food source has been identified, public health action to control the outbreak can be taken by regulatory agencies such as the FDA and USDA-FSIS. At this stage, CDC continues to investigate other potential courses of illness and monitors for additional illnesses to determine when the outbreak is over [4].

Dolman Law Group

Food poisoning from perishables can be difficult to prove without the suspected products being saved, tested and matched to the bacterial strain found in the sickened individual- unless there were other cases involving the same product across the state or across the nation. This difficulty is the reason why if you or a loved one have been deemed ill due to a supermarket product or wholesale vendor, you should contact an experienced product liability attorney.

You can collect for current and future medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, among other ailments. The supermarket injury attorney will have the resources to go the distance, if necessary, against the insurance companies and their large firms which represent the big supermarket chains in Florida. Dolman Law Group can help you. We have won large settlements for our clients against retail giants. Call us today at (727) 451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

https://www.dolmanlaw.com/legal-services/product-liability-attorneys/

References:

[1] http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/24/us-costco-wholesale-ecoli-idUSKBN0TD2UZ20151124#BiVHqzy8zF2TZUZf.97
[2] http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/08/usa-fosterfarms-recall-idUSL2N0PJ1SB20140708#xdkQihRw1mwyOZrF.97
[3] http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/#.VlXRrr9J29Y
[4] http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/outbreaks/multistate-outbreaks/cdc-role.html