Spokane Produce E. coli LawsuitsOn July 17, 2002, Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) contacted the Washington State Department of Health (WDOH) to report a cluster of diarrheal illnesses among a group of teenaged girls who had recently attended a drill team dance camp at Eastern Washington University (EWU). Laboratory tests conducted by the WDOH Public Health Laboratory would later confirm the illnesses to be E. coli O157:H7 with an indistinguishable PFGE pattern. Subsequently, SRHD became aware of additional cases of E. coli O157:H7 with the same PFGE pattern that had no association with dance camp and EWU. This led to a broader investigation by a number of public health agencies.
With respect to the first group at the drill team camp at EWU, the WDOH and SRHD epidemiological investigation identified the probable source of the E. coli infections to be romaine lettuce. The trace back investigation conducted by WDOH revealed that the romaine lettuce served at the camp in the relevant time frame was shredded, bagged, and sold by defendant Spokane Produce.
In addition, health investigators were able to link individuals considered to be “outliers” to consumption of Spokane Produce romaine lettuce. Two of the outlier cases were persons from Walla Walla County. These two unrelated persons shared no connection other than the fact that they both consumed salad containing Spokane Produce romaine lettuce at a restaurant in Walla Walla during the same week in mid-July 2002. Trace back investigations indicated that the restaurant had received the same Spokane Produce bagged lettuce that had been delivered to the dance camp at EWU.
An additional outlier in Spokane County ate a garden salad made with romaine lettuce at a Spokane restaurant, during the same week as the campers at EWU. The restaurant also received the same Spokane Produce bagged romaine product delivered to the camp at EWU, identified as item number 197386. Two other cases from Spokane County also ate salad in the proper time frame, although the source of the lettuce in their salads could not be determined after the fact.
Lastly, three residents of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, developed E. coli O157:H7 infections with a PFGE pattern indistinguishable to that isolated from ill attendees at the EWU dance camp.
At the conclusion of the investigation, WDOH concluded that the source of the outbreak was romaine lettuce prepared and sold by Spokane Produce.
Marler Clark's E. coli lawyers resolved the claims of eight individuals who became ill with E. coli infections after eating Spokane Produce brand lettuce.
More about the Spokane Produce E. coli outbreak can be found on the Marler Clark-sponsored site about E. coli.