Amie Westfall is suing the Cleveland County Fair in Shelby, North Carolina after her 18-month-old son Dominic suffered from a severe E. coli infection as part of last month’s outbreak tied to the fair’s petting zoo, Circle G Ranch.
According to the North Carolina Department of Health, there were 106 reported illnesses and 1 death connected to the petting zoo and investigators believe animal exposure was the likely source of the bacteria, according to the complaint filed this week by food safety law firm Marler Clark (underwriter of Food Safety News).
The suit also points to rain runoff that could have helped spread the bacteria to other areas of the fair grounds, exacerbating the outbreak.
Dominic’s infection developed into Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), which causes severe injury to the kidney. He was hospitalized for several days and the suit says he is still “suffering from the aftereffects of his illness.”
The complaint says the plaintiffs are seeking at least $10,000 in damages. In a blog post last week, food safety lawyer Bill Marler (publisher of Food Safety News) noted that the firm is doing the case pro bono and is asking the local attorneys on the case to do the same.
In the wake of dozens of serious outbreaks linked to petting zoos, Marler believes fairs and petting zoos need to step up their health precautions, or even consider banning petting zoos. “How many of these outbreaks have to happen until WE rethink what WE are exposing our kids to?” he asked on Marler Blog last week.© Food Safety News