Finley School District E. coli OutbreakIn October, 1998, the Finley School District prepared and served a ground beef taco lunch at the Finley Elementary School. The ground beef utilized in the lunch was ground beef supplied by Northern States Beef through the National School Lunch Program. The ground beef was contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.
An investigation by the Washington State Department of Health concluded that contaminated, undercooked ground beef in the school lunch tacos was the cause of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that occurred at the Finley Elementary School. The WDOH final outbreak report concludes in part:
As no other common school activity was identified other than eating at the school cafeteria, it is reasonable to conclude that a meal served at the school was the likely source of illness. Cattle are the known reservoir of E. coli O157:H7. Thus, it is likely that consuming the ground beef served in the tacos was the vehicle.
A jury agreed with the Benton-Franklin Health District and Washington State Department of Health investigators’ conclusion, and in 2001 Marler Clark won a record $4.6 million judgment on behalf of 11 children who became ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections during the outbreak. Several of the children suffered from Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, and were hospitalized.
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