E. coli Part 1

Nov 11, 2008 11:14 AM

In September, more than two-dozen people got sick after attending a North State fundraiser.

The illness was traced back to e-coli from contaminated tri-tip.

â??There was this little bug inside of me that almost killed me,â?쳌 says 6-year-old Olyvia Titus.

Olyvia and her entire family attended a fundraiser for volunteer fire fighters in Forest Ranch in early September.

â??I ate a hot dog at the Forest Ranch fire department and I got sick,â?쳌 says Olyvia.

Officials with the Butte County Health Department say the E. coli outbreak came from tri-tip served at the event.

The family is assuming the bacteria were spread from the meat onto other foods that were served.

Olyvia was one of the most severe cases.

It took her more than five weeks and two blood transfusions to recover.

Olyviaâ??s mother, Kimberli Titus says, â?? it was pretty scary and I had to hold it together but there were moments when I wasn't so composed.â?쳌

While Olyvia has fully recovered her mother says dealing with all this has taken a toll on her family.

â??I am a lot more cautious about the different kinds of meat that we by now and how we prepare them.â?쳌

The family has hired a well known Seattle based law firm, Marler Clark, that specializes in food-borne illnesses.

No lawsuits have been filed yet but the firm is investigating what happened.

â??I think people aren't aware of the level of the risk. I don't think they understand how quickly something very serious could come of it,â?쳌 says David Babcock, attorney with Marler Clark.

The most dangerous form of E. coli 0157 H7 can be found in the intestines and feces of cattle and that ends up on meat through the slaughtering process.

After the famous Jack in the Box E. coli out break in the early 90s, the Federal Government took major steps to regulate the meat industry.

The USDA does not allow the beef industry to sell ground beef that contains E. coli.

According to Marler Clark the Federal Government does allow it to sell intact meat such as steaks where the bacteria is present.

The theory there is the bacteria is on the surface of the meat and will be destroyed in the cooking process but that is where the law firm believes the problem lies.

It argues a lot of intact meat is further processed at grocery stores, restaurants, and even at home.

Babcock says, â??when you grind meat and you take that surface and put it all the way through the bacteria can get all the through and its much too difficult to reliably remove E. coli from hamburgers in the cooking process.â?쳌

Marler Clark says the loophole is what caused the sizzler E coli outbreak in Wisconsin 2000 where one child died.

The law firm calls for changes in regulations.

In part two of our special report the beef industry and the USDA responds and what steps they say they're taking to make your food safe.


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