A New Jersey woman has filed an E. coli lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Panera Bread and its lettuce supplier, Freshway Foods, according to numerous news sources.
Louise Fraser, 66, of Readington Township, NJ, became ill in late March and subsequently developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially fatal kidney disease. The lawsuit states that she ate a salad at the Panera Bread in Raritan, NJ, and a few days later began experiencing bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps. She was hospitalized from March 25 through April 9, and underwent multiple blood transfusions.
“I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,” Fraser told NJ.com.
Fraser’s E. coli lawsuit alleges that the salad was made with romaine lettuce supplied by Ohio-based Freshway Foods and grown in Yuma, AZ. Freshway recently issued a recall of ready-to-eat salads made with chopped romaine lettuce, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that an 11-state E. coli outbreak had been traced to romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma region.
E. coli lawsuit:
The outbreak first made headlines on April 5, when it was reported that an unnamed restaurant was being investigated by the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH). Six people were reported ill from Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O157:H7 at that time; all six were hospitalized.
NJ.com reported the next day that the DOH confirmed it was investigating four Panera Bread locations in the state: in Hunterdon, Middlesex, Somerset, and Warren counties. (Raritan is in Somerset.)
The CDC then announced on April 10 that it was investigating a multistate E. coli outbreak with the aid of numerous government organizations: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and several state departments.
On April 13, the CDC pinned the blame for the outbreak on contaminated romaine lettuce. It updated its outbreak statistics on that day, increasing the number of people sickened to 35 across 11 states, with 22 people hospitalized. In addition to Fraser, two other victims also had developed HUS.
E. coli lawsuit:
E. coli information
One of the most common causes of foodborne illness annually is E. coli (Escherichia coli). E. coli bacteria are normally found in the intestines of mammals, and most strains are benign.
Some strains of E. coli, however, can cause serious illness. Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O157:H7 is one of the most common strains – and also one of the most dangerous.
Anyone can become infected. People with the highest risk of becoming severely ill include the very young and the very old, as well as people with compromised immune systems.
Symptoms of E. coli
E. coli produce symptoms that are similar to those produced by other foodborne pathogens:
- diarrhea, which can be bloody
- nausea and vomiting
- severe abdominal cramping
- fever and fatigue
- loss of appetite
- decreased urination.
Symptoms usually last from five to 10 days. Most people recover on their own. Complications can arise, however, and produce dangerous consequences.
Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)
About 10 percent of people infected with E. coli develop HUS, which can be life-threatening. The overwhelming majority of HUS cases involve children under 5, and the disease is the leading cause of acute kidney failure for that age group.
HUS typically develops after prolonged diarrhea, a week or longer. The disease damages red blood cells, and that results in clogging of the kidney’s filtering system. If kidney failure occurs, a kidney transplant is often required.
HUS is fatal in 2 percent to 7 percent of the cases. Those fatalities usually involve children.
Victims of HUS who survive can suffer long-term consequences, including impaired kidney function or hypertension.