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2nd Lawsuit Filed Against Fairbank Farms

A second lawsuit stemming from an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 was filed last week against Fairbank Farms, this one was on behalf of Augusta, Maine resident Margaret Long and was filed in Maine District Court.

ground-beef-6.jpgAccording to the lawsuit, she purchased beef produced by Fairbank Farms at Shaw’s Market in Augusta, consuming the product on Sept. 23rd and began experiencing symptoms consistent with E. coli O157:H7 infection on Sept. 26th.

Her illness worsened and she required hospitalization from Sept. 29 through Oct. 4, when her cultures tested positive for the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 found in the Fairbank Farms beef.

Ashville, NY-based Fairbank Reconstruction Corporation, doing business as Fairbank Farms Inc. recalled 545,699 pounds of ground beef contaminated with the toxic E. coli O157:H7 on Halloween, Oct. 31st.

The recall was for beef the company processed between Sept. 14 and 16, 2009 consistent with retail distribution at the time when Margaret Long was shopping at her local market, which was supplied by Fairbank Farms.

State health departments along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) have determined the contaminated ground beef was responsible for two deaths and at least 25 E. coli illnesses in ten states, mostly in the Northeast.

CDC has not updated the numbers included in the outbreak since Nov. 9th, but news media reports for Maine doubled the number of illnesses involved for that state to four, up from two.

“Anyone who has battled a severe E. coli infection will continue to have ongoing health problems,” says attorney Bill Marler, who with Peter Felmley of the Portland firm Drummond, Woodsum and MacMahon, represents Margaret Long.  “Not only does this woman have to deal with lost work time and hospital bills, but she continues to struggle with health issues.  And it all started out with a meal–a meal made with meat that should have never reached the marketplace.”

Marler, who represents victims of foodborne illnesses throughout the nation, earlier sued Fairbank Farms on behalf of a Massachusetts family sickened in the same outbreak.

According to CDC, the investigation into a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses with isolates that match by “DNA fingerprinting” analysis found that most ill persons had consumed ground beef, with several purchasing the same or similar product from a common retail chain.

At least some of the illnesses appear to be associated with products subject to these recalls. A sample from an opened package of ground beef recovered from a patient’s home was tested by the Massachusetts Department of Health and yielded an E. coli O157:H7 isolate that matched the patient isolates by DNA analysis.

The cluster includes 25 persons from 10 states infected with matching strains of E. coli O157:H7. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: California (1), Connecticut (4), Massachusetts (8), Maryland (1), Maine (2), New Hampshire (4), New Jersey (1), New York (1), Pennsylvania (2), and Vermont (1).

Of these, the genetic associations of 22 human isolates and the product isolate have been confirmed by an advanced secondary DNA test; secondary tests are pending on others. Depending on the results of continuing laboratory testing and ongoing case finding, the number of persons determined to be in this cluster may increase or decrease.

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