Nestle Cookie Dough E. coli Outbreak Sees First Lawsuit

Yesterday we wrote that Nestle Toll House cookie dough has been associated with 70 cases of <"">E. coli O157:H7 in 30 states. Now, the Associated Press (AP) is reported that a family from Denver has sued Nestle USA in federal court. The family alleges their six-year-old daughter, Madison, contracted the dangerous, sometimes deadly E. coli bacteria from eating raw Nestle Toll House cookie dough.

Cindy Sedbrook said her daughter was near kidney failure in May when doctors concluded that Madison’s symptoms—bloody diarrhea and vomiting—were caused by E. coli bacteria, said the AP. The lawsuit was filed this week, said the AP, and seeks $50,000 to $100,000 in damages for hospital bills.

The E. coli outbreak prompted Nestle to close a plant in Virginia where the cookie dough was made; U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors are currently at the plant. According to UPI, the plant also produces Buitoni pasta and sauce, but manufacturing of those products won’t be affected by the closure. USAToday reported that inspectors from the FDA will stay in Danville as long as it takes to determine how E. coli might have made it into the cookie dough.

An indicator of fecal contamination, E. coli bacteria is usually associated with raw hamburger. E. coli may cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, deadly septicemia, and death. Symptoms of infection include stomach cramps and watery diarrhea that may turn bloody within one to three days. Most healthy adults can recover completely from E. coli poisoning within a week.

E. coli generally 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. David Acheson, the FDA’s assistant commissioner for food safety told USAToday that the agency is looking at several possible scenarios, including via cross-contamination or a sick worker.

Last Friday, the FDA warned consumers not to eat any varieties of Prepackaged Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough following reports of people infected with E. coli O157:H7 in dozens of states. At that time, the agency said the E. coli illnesses might be related to consumption of raw cookie dough. The FDA has advised consumers to dispose of the cookie dough if they have it. Cooking the dough is not recommended because consumers might get the bacteria on their hands or other cooking surfaces.

Individuals who have recently eaten prepackaged, refrigerated Toll House cookie dough and have experienced any E. coli symptoms should contact their doctor or health care provider immediately. Any such illnesses should be reported to state or local health authorities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30 people have been hospitalized, and seven developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). None have died. The majority of those sickened—66 percent—are under the age of 19, and three-quarters are female.

According to the CDC, E. coli O157:H7 is responsible for sickening 73,000 people every year and, of those, 60 will die from the disease.

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