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Georgia Family Files Suit Over E coli-Tainted Meat

Jul 22, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

A South Georgia family filed a lawsuit Monday over E. coli tainted meat that has sickened and hospitalized dozens.  The suit names Nebraska Beef Limited, the apparent source of contaminated beef sold at a Moultrie restaurant.  The suit was filed on behalf of Evelyn and John Stewart who fell ill after eating at The Barbeque Pit in June.  Evelyn Stewart , 72, remains hospitalized with infection complications.  Stewart’s family reports that medical bills are expected to reach three quarters of a million dollars.

Evelyn Stewart, Faye Bryant, and one other patient continue to recover from the E. coli bacteria that landed them in the intensive care unit at Archbold Memorial Hospital with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS).  Recovery for HUS is slow and sometimes uneven.  "What happens is the toxin gets into your blood stream and it irritates the inside of your blood vessels so you make lots of little blood clots and your platelets go down," said Dr. Craig Smith Infectious Diseases Specialist.  Infectious Disease Specialists say adults who contract HUS often have a more difficult time than children overcoming the disease; the mortality rate for an adult can be has high as 15 percent.

Meanwhile, we’ve been following the E. coli outbreak that started in Ohio, moved to include Michigan, and has now added New York, Kentucky, Indiana, and Utah to its growing roster of victims.  All 45 cases of the infection are of the same type of E. coli—E. coli O157:H7— the most virulent and deadly E. coli strain.

The growing, multi-state outbreak has been traced to beef processed by Nebraska Beef and sold in Kroger Grocery stores in Michigan and Ohio and, on June 9, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) told Nebraska Beef executives that samples of Nebraska Beef were among those from a group of processing companies whose meat tested positive for E. coli.  Ohio had test results confirming E. coli-contaminated meat on June 23; however, two days passed before that information was publicly released and Kroger Grocery issued a recall.

Kroger volunteered information its products were tainted; however, no other retailers publicly linked themselves to Nebraska Beef, a Kroger supplier.  Kroger issued its recall on June 25, but it took Nebraska Beef five days to issue its first recall of 532,000 pounds of meat sent to companies in seven states.  Over one week later, on July 3, Nebraska Beef issued a recall for 5.3 million pounds of its meat.

The USDA reported that Nebraska Beef's production practices were insufficient to protect meat from contamination, products might have been produced in unsanitary conditions, and Nebraska Beef was lax in its response that its meat might be contaminated.  Nebraska Beef has been involved in other issues where questionable practices and food contamination were found to have occurred.  In 2003, the USDA went to court to try to shut down Nebraska Beef’s Omaha packing plant after citing it for numerous violations.  Three years later, Minnesota public health and USDA officials linked an E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak in ground beef that killed a Minnesota woman to Nebraska Beef.


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