Cargill Cops to E. coli in Ground Beef

Cargill, a big name in the food industry, just admitted that its ground beef was at the root of a large <"">E. coli outbreak, said the SCTimes, citing papers filed in federal court.

The admission, not an indicator of settlement, is part of a lawsuit seeking $100 million in damages and involving a former dance instructor who is now suffering from a variety of significant health issues as a result of complications from the food borne pathogen after eating a contaminated hamburger, said the SCTimes. She suffered seizures; was diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)—a complication of E. coli infection that causes kidney failure—was placed in a medically induced coma for three months; has been in rehab for two years; amassed about $2 million in medical bills; and is now in a wheelchair, said SCTimes. She fell ill in September 2007.

In October we wrote that ongoing E. coli contamination cases linked to Cargill Meat Solutions resulted in at least one settlement in one lawsuit. According to Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), the parents of a girl who was hospitalized for over one month as a result of eating E. coli contaminated hamburger meat, reached a settlement with Cargill.

The 11-year-old fell ill in 2007 after she ate a contaminated hamburger from Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation, said MPR. That contamination led to a massive—845,000 pound—recall of frozen ground beef parties. The girl spent three weeks on kidney dialysis and her family racked up about $350,000 in medical bills, said MPR. It seems that the young girl developed a serious kidney disease (HUS) that can lead to renal failure and long-term kidney problems.

Prior to the 2007 E. Coli outbreak, federal inspectors repeatedly found that Cargill was violating its own safety procedures in handling ground beef, but it imposed no fines or sanctions, according to the New York Times, previously. After the outbreak was detected, federal inspectors conducted spot checks at 224 meat plants and found serious problems at 55 that were failing to follow their own safety plans. These problems occurred even though the USDA had been monitoring these plants. The 2007 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak sickened more than 900 people.

E. coli are a group of bacteria found in animal intestines and feces. While some strains are necessary for digestion; some are harmful, deadly, and toxin producing and part of a group of E. coli called Verocytotoxigenic E. coli, or VTECs, also known as Shiga-producing E. coli. Of particular concern is the virulent, sometimes deadly E. coli O157:H7 strain that is part of this group and is generally found to be the culprit in E. coli-related food-borne illness outbreak.

E. coli may cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, deadly septicemia, and death. Symptoms of E. coli infection include stomach cramps and watery diarrhea that may turn bloody within one to three days. E. coli taints meat through improper butchering and processing practices and, once released in the body, produces the Shiga-producing toxins that have been linked to kidney damage in young children, and can also lead to kidney failure and death.

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