Cargill Sued Over E. coliDec 24, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP A 10-year-old girl who consumed E. coli-tainted Cargill beef will likely require a kidney transplant or dialysis and her parents have filed a $4.3 million lawsuit against Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation. The Star Tribune says the child became very ill after eating Cargill Meat beef patties, developing near-fatal complications linked to the deadly bacteria and spending close to a month hospitalized. ABC affiliate, KSTP News, reports that Art and Leah Hemmingson said their daughter, Ruth was hospitalized at St. Paul Children's Hospital and that although she recovered, her organs began shutting down. Ruth told the news station, "I've never felt the way that I did in the hospital…. And it scared me."
The lawsuit was filed this week by the Hemmingsons to cover past and future medical fees, reports the Star-Tribune, which said that the suit also includes “unspecified damages for pain and suffering.” The lawsuit states that Ruth will likely require either dialysis or kidney transplant in order to survive the damage caused by the E. coli infection, according to the Star Tribune. According to KTSP News, the family and Cargill were unable to reach a settlement.
The Hemmingson’s purchased a box of frozen beef patties from a Sam’s Club store, consuming three on September 13, 2007, said the Star Tribune. On September 16 Ruth became sick with what the lawsuit described as stomach cramps, nausea, and diarrhea, reported the paper; the family provided the meat to the Minnesota Department of Health. The following month—October 2007—and after complaints of other children falling ill after eating burgers made from Cargill beef, Cargill recalled over 840,000 pounds of ground beef patties, which had been distributed nationwide at Sam's Club stores. Leah Hemmingson took Ruth to a pediatrician who prescribed antibiotics and said “nothing remarkable” was found, according to the lawsuit, said the Star Tribune.
Ruth is one of four Minnesota children who fell ill after eating the American Chefs brand frozen beef patties produced by Cargill Meat, said KSTP News. "You kind of stand there with your hands up in the air: 'Somebody help us and take responsibility,'" Ruth's father, Art, told KTSP, adding "And that's what we're asking Cargill to do—is take responsibility for what they've done." Leah told KTSP, "She's the only nine year-old I know who has a burial site. I mean that's how serious it got."
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.