Cargill Settles E. Coli Suit

In the ongoing cases involving <"">E. coli contamination linked to Cargill Meat Solutions, a settlement in one lawsuit has been reached. 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 last week 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 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 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) had been monitoring these plants.

According to MPR, Cargill said in a written statement that, “In the years since the 2007 recall, Cargill has worked privately with each of the people affected to address their needs.” 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.

Recently, we wrote that the New York Times published an interesting report detailing flaws in the U.S. beef inspection system. The New York Times report used the case of a 22-year-old woman who developed a severe E. coli infection in 2007 after eating a frozen hamburger patty made by Cargill that was labeled “American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties.” Today, the young woman is paralyzed from the waist down due to her bout with E. coli.

According to the Times, despite being called “Angus” on the label, the hamburger patty the young woman ate was “made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin.” The ingredients came from several slaughterhouses in the U.S., as well as one in Uruguay and came from parts of the cow most likely to be tainted with E. coli bacteria. Such ingredients are not tested by Cargill prior to grinding and mixing. Cargill’s testing practices, though considered unsafe by many, are not unusual throughout the industry.

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