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E. coli outbreaks threaten our food supply

E coli poisoning is one of the most frightening kinds of poisoning. It has led to thousands of instances of people getting sick and numerous deaths.

Because it often originates in the processes of meat processors, fruit growers, canners and water supplies, E. coli poisoning has led to many significant lawsuits.

 

What is E. coli?

Escherichia coli is a bacterium that lives in the intestines of animals, including humans. Sickness occurs when people eat food that has come in contact with feces -- in the farm field or in commercial processing.

Only certain strains of this bacterium cause sickness. But these strains do great harm -- bloody diarrhea, severe anemia or kidney failure. In worst cases, E. coli causes death, many of which are never reported.

These are just some of the most recent E. coli outbreaks, with dates and strain numbers:

  • Chipotle (E. coli O26). 43 restaurants in six states, beginning in Washington and Oregon are closed after people are sickened.
  • Costco (E. coli O157:H7). Costco's Rotisserie Chicken Salad is reported to be the likely cause of 19 cases of E. coli in seven different states.
  • General Mills Flour (E. coli O121). The company recalls 10 million pounds of flour after sickening 46 people in 21 states.
  • I.M. Healthy Brand SoyNut Butter (E. coli O157:H7). Sixteen people are sickened; eight are hospitalized.

Over the years, people have been poisoned by every kind of food from many businesses: Jack in the Box, Dole, Taco Bell, Jimmy John's, Cargill, JBS Swift, National Steak and Poultry, even growers of clover sprouts.

How dangerous?

E. coli is not a guaranteed killer. People tend to recover by passing it through their systems. Drink lots of water. Avoid diarrhea medicines and antibiotics - they tend to make it worse. Buy irradiated hamburger where possible. And cook it to at least 160°F.

Worst case scenarios can lead to permanent damage to kidneys and other organs, and even to death. Financial compensation is possible through the courts. An experienced litigator like McGinn, Carpenter, Montoya & Love, P.A. of Abuquerque is a good place to start.

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