A lawsuit was filed Wednesday against Baugher’s Orchard and Farm of Westminster, MD on behalf of Baltimore resident Nicholas Fickel, who became ill after drinking unpasteurized apple cider contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.
The lawsuit was filed on Fickel’s behalf in Carroll County Circuit court by the Seattle food safety law firm Marler Clark.
Baugher’s Orchard and Farm recalled its unpasteurized apple products after they were identified by Maryland public health authorities as the source of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that sickened at least 7 people.
Fickel visited Baugher’s Orchard and Farm on Oct. 17. He sampled the farm’s unpasteurized apple cider products and purchased cider to take home. On Oct. 21, he fell ill with painful stomach cramping and gastrointestinal problems.
Fickel sought medical treatment and doctors later confirmed that a stool specimen submitted for laboratory testing was positive for E. coli O157:H7 and identical to the strain isolated from the six other Maryland residents who had also consumed Baugher’s cider.
In a news release, attorney Colin Caywood, who represents Fickel, said, “Apple cider is not an inherently dangerous product that consumers expect to be contaminated with pathogens like E. coli. It’s up to producers to ensure they are selling safe products.”
Some previous E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks involving unpasteurized cider or apple juice have been traced to “down” or “windfall” apples that were harvested from the ground, where they had become contaminated with animal feces. Sometimes even brushing and washing apples before processing does not remove the bacteria.