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Second Lawsuit Filed in Romaine Lettuce Outbreak

A St. Louis man is the second person to seek damages from a Missouri grocery chain and an Oklahoma produce distributor after being sickened during an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in St. Louis County Circuit Court.

Charles Meyer, 61, ate romaine lettuce and other salad bar items several times from a Schnuck grocery store in Cool Valley, MO, the complaint states. Meyer was infected with E. coli O157:H7 and was treated at Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur for several days.

Meyer has not recovered his previous health since the illness, the lawsuit alleges.

Earlier this month Mary Kozlowski also filed suit against Schnuck and Vaughan Foods, which distributed the lettuce, after she suffered permanent kidney damage from an E. coli infection linked to the grocery chain’s salads.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60 E. coli illnesses in 10 states are associated with romaine lettuce served at grocery store salad bars, and at universities in Minnesota and Missouri. Through its own investigation, the law firm Marler Clark determined that Vaughan Foods supplied the lettuce to Schnuck Supermarkets. 

The plaintiffs are represented by the law firm Aleshire Robb in Missouri and Marler Clark in Seattle, sponsor of Food Safety News.

© Food Safety News
  • Seems every year there is an outbreak of the e.coli bacteria from lettuce, broccoli, or some other type of produce. Even with tighter, and tighter restrictions and inspections, some either slip through or they are not being stored properly. This is an ufortunate event, but understanably, this is why we all carry insurance in the food industry!

  • Mr. Geller: Your comment makes it sound like you are more concerned about liability than the health of individuals…
    Mr. Marler: Is romaine lettuce inherently unsafe, or are these illnesses the result of mishandling? How do the numbers for romaine lettuce compare to confirmed illnesses from raw milk this year?

  • Food Safety News

    “Alex,” for this calendar year there have been roughly 55 confirmed foodborne illnesses traced to raw milk and roughly 60 confirmed foodborne illnesses traced to romaine, at least among reported outbreaks we’ve been able to find. That’s likely a low estimate for either food, however, because confirmed illnesses — which require a lab analysis of a stool specimen — represent only a partial tally of how many likely were sickened; most people infected with a foodborne pathogen never get a formal diagnosis, so their illnesses aren’t reported. And not all states publicize outbreaks.
    In terms of relative risk, given that millions more people eat lettuce than drink unpasteurized milk, raw milk is simply the riskier food.
    But we suspect that’s not your point.
    As you no doubt know, any food exposed to fecal matter can become contaminated with pathogens, and contaminated food can make people sick, whether it’s a contaminated leafy green like romaine or hazelnuts or strawberries or meat or milk. So whenever there’s a possibility that fecal contamination can occur, food-safety advocates think the product should be handled properly to either prevent the contamination, or pasteurized or otherwise processed to prevent the contaminated food from getting to the consumer.
    Yes, there is a legitimate public health debate about whether the sale of raw milk should be regulated, while the sale of other risky foods like oysters or sprouts is not (or perhaps should be). But there is no question that dairy milk, which has been described as “essentially a suspension of fecal and other microorganisms in a nutrient broth” can be made safer through pasteurization.