First E. coli Lawsuit in JBS Swift Beef Company Beef Product Recall

The June 24th Class I recall of potentially <"">E. coli-tainted JBS Swift Beef Company beef products, which was later expanded, is now seeing the first of what some anticipate to become many more lawsuits. The Denver Post reported that the lawsuit was filed yesterday in Denver federal court against the Greeley slaughterhouse that produced and later recalled the meat. A Class I recall is a health hazard situation in which there is a reasonable probability that use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.

The lawsuit was filed by Alex Roerick, 13, of Albuquerque, New Mexico and alleges that Roerick became sick and was hospitalized after eating meat produced at the JBS Swift & Company packing plant in late April, said the Denver Post. Roerick fell ill with flu-like symptoms after consuming a shish kebab on May 10 at his grandmother’s house, said the Denver Post, which explained that physicians determined Alex was sickened with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious kidney complication, as a result of ingesting E. coli O157:H7.

We recently reported that JBS Swift Beef issued a recall of approximately 41,280 pounds of beef products over E. coli contamination concerns. JBS Swift later expanded its original recall to include approximately 380,000 pounds of assorted beef primal products. Together with traceback information and laboratory data, the recall was expanded as a result of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in an ongoing investigation into 23 illnesses in multiple states. According to the FSIS, at least 18 of the reported illnesses appear to be associated. JBS Swift is a unit of Brazilian meat company JBS S.A., said Reuters previously.

Reuters reported that the expansion brought the total amount of recalled beef products to about 421,000 pounds, citing the USDA and JBS Swift Beef. The affected beef was produced on April 21, said Reuters, explaining that it was distributed both nationally and internationally.

The recalled products include intact beef cuts such as primals, sub-primals, or boxed beef typically used for steaks and roasts, not ground beef. FSIS is aware that some recalled products may have been further processed into ground products by other companies and noted that the highest risk products are raw ground product, trim, or other non-intact product made from the products subject to the recall. It seems, said the Denver Post, that Alex ate whole muscle, not ground beef.

Swift said contamination could have occurred because an organic acid wash was not conducted on the meat prior to packaging, said spokesman Chandler Keys, reported the Denver Post. “We found that on April 21, pieces of meat mainly used for sirloin steaks were diverted from the spray because it was under repair,” Keys said, quoted the Denver Post.

An indicator of fecal contamination, E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that may cause fatal blood poisoning (septicemia), urinary bladder inflammation (cystitis), kidney failure, and death. Infection symptoms include stomach cramps and watery diarrhea that may turn bloody within one to three days. E. coli generally taints meat through improper butchering and processing practices and, once released in the body, produces the shiga-producing toxins linked to kidney damage in young children. The very young, seniors, and persons with weakened immune systems are the most susceptible to food borne illness.

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