Infection with E. coli 0157:H7 causes hemorrhagic colitis, inflammation of the colon that causes abdominal cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. In severe cases, the E. coli victim may need a colectomy (surgery to remove all or part of the colon).

Fred Pritzker Attorney
Attorney Fred Pritzker

Hemorrhagic colitis can happen to anyone infected with E. coli, but little children and the elderly are more at risk, as are people with compromised immune systems. This is an acute (quick onset) disease with the primary symptom of very bloody diarrhea.

The illness usually lasts about a week. But some people become seriously ill and can experience extreme damage to their colons. The toxins and bacteria can eat away at the lining of the colon until there is a significant amount of dead tissue. In some cases surgery (a colectomy) has to be done to remove all or part of the colon. This can be a life-changing illness, and it is sometimes fatal.

One of our clients, a lovely elderly woman, ate food contaminated with E. coli O157.  When she developed severe colitis and her condition became critical, doctors performed a colectomy and removed so much of her colon that she has to wear a bag to collect her waste. Although this has been one of the most difficult things she has gone through, she has kept on living a full life and is one of the most joyful people we know.

You can contact one of our lawyers by calling toll-free at 1-888-377-8900 or submitting the firm’s free case consultation form.

How Does E. coli Cause Colitis?

When a person gets E. coli food poisoning, the bacteria attach to the colon (large intestine) using their string-like flagella. Once attached, they become factories for the production of a dangerous Shiga toxins, the poison that makes people sick. These toxins attack the lining of the colon, killing tissue, and causing hemorrhagic colitis, which is inflammation of the colon that causes it to bleed. If the damaged area reaches a certain level, the dead tissue needs to be surgically removed, meaning all or part of the colon has to be cut out. As mentioned above, this is called a colectomy.


The best way to prevent this kind of colitis is to prevent E. coli infections. This means taking steps to make sure food does not get contaminated with this poison-producing bacteria. Foods most at risk for contamination include beef, fresh produce, and raw milk products. Produce can become contaminated by raw or improperly composted manure, irrigation water containing untreated sewage, or contaminated wash water. We have handled cases where people picking produce were having their bowl movements right in the field as they worked. It is sometimes unbelievable what companies will allow to save money.

One possible prevention measure is treatment of produce with chlorinated water, which can kill bacteria; however, this does not totally eliminate pathogenic bacteria. Good sanitation measures in the field, during transport, in processing plants and distribution centers, in grocery stores and other retail outlets, and at restaurants are the best way to prevent this contamination.

Many of the people our lawyers have represented have purchased food at a grocery store and eaten it at home. Some of them have thought that because they ate it at home that they were at fault for the illness. This is not true.

E. coli outbreaks are caused by unsanitary conditions in food processing plants and restaurants. You are not to blame for E. coli infections caused by contaminated food.

Our attorneys have represented people with severe colitis from these types of infections. They understand this condition and have medical experts that they can use to help win your case and maximize your recovery. Contact them to talk for free to talk about your case at 1-888-377-8900 and whether you can sue the restaurant and/or food manufacturer responsible for your illness.