E. coli Victims Should Not Be Blamed for Outbreak

In March 2009 an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with cookie dough hospitalized 35 people, 10 of whom developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe, sometimes fatal complication of E. coli that causes kidney failure, stroke, blindness, heart failure, pancreatitis and other health problems. My law firm represented several of the survivors from that outbreak.

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In the current online edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases, a medical journal, an article about the 2009 E. coli outbreak states that raw flour used to make the cookie dough was the “prime suspect” in the outbreak, although there was no conclusive evidence that the flour was, in fact, adulterated.

Cookie Dough E. coli

The article then suggests that the those sickened in the outbreak after eating raw cookie dough were at fault for their illnesses:

“This is the first reported STEC outbreak associated with consuming ready-to-bake commercial prepackaged cookie dough. Despite instructions to bake brand A cookie dough before eating, case patients consumed the product uncooked. Manufacturers should consider formulating ready-to-bake commercial prepackaged cookie dough to be as safe as a ready-to-eat product. More effective consumer education about the risks of eating unbaked cookie dough is needed” (emphasis added).

Fred Pritzker ImageThere appears to be a logical disconnection here. If this was the first E. coli outbreak linked to cookie dough,  how can it be suggested that consumers (who are known to eat raw cookie dough) are implicitly at fault because they failed to take precautions against the E. coli O157:H7 threat?

I agree that consumers need to take reasonable precautions. But if producers – especially multi-national companies – don’t consider a danger or prevent it from occurring, it’s illogical and unfair to blame consumers for not doing so.

Attorney Fred Pritzker is the founder of the E. coli outbreak law firm Pritzker Hageman, P.A.

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E. coli Information for People Sickened by Cookie Dough


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Category: Food Poisoning
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