About 45 people are involved in a class action lawsuit against an Alberta, Canada, Hutterite colony related to contaminated pork that led to an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak.

A judge certified the case in recent days. It seeks compensation for people who were sickened after consuming pork products from The Meat Shop at Pine Haven, which is a meat packing and retail store at the Pine Haven Hutterite colony near Wetaskiwin. 

One person died and 42 others were sickened in the outbreak during the spring of 2018. The cases were linked to pork products contaminated with E. coli  O157:H7. Fourteen of the patients had to be hospitalized and five developed a kind of kidney infection known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which frequently causes lifelong injuries and sometimes death.

About half of the cases involved people who had eaten at Mama Nita’s, a Filipino restaurant in southeast Edmonton that has since closed. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency traced the pork products to The Meat Shop at Pine Haven, according to court documents.

“The defendants owed a duty of care to the plaintiff and other class members to ensure that its products were safe for consumption and that ingestion of those products would not cause illness or injury,” the plaintiffs say in their complaint.

In total, the plaintiffs seek $15 million in damages and another $1 million in special damages.

Edmonton lawyer Rick Mallett represents the plaintiffs. He expects the case could take up to two years to reach trial.

About E. coli infections
Anyone who has developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor. 

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients. 

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

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