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Outbreak News

Family of sick boy sues beef company

by Leah Beth

Yakima Herald

July 17, 2009

SELAH, Wash. -- The parents of a young Selah boy who fell gravely ill last month after eating beef believed to be contaminated with E.coli is suing the JBS Swift Beef Co., which last month recalled hundreds of thousands of pounds of beef processed at its Greeley, Colo., plant.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S District Court in Yakima by Bonna Cannon and Matthew Whitney, parents of 16-month-old C.W. Whitney.

"This family's experience underscores the need for swifter action on the part of the local, state and federal regulatory agencies responsible for our public health," said William Marler, a Seattle lawyer representing the family.

Phone messages left with the media relations office at JBS USA, the parent company, were not returned.

JBS Swift Beef first recalled 41,280 pounds of whole muscle beef products on June 24, and four days later expanded the recall to another 380,000 pounds. The company informed its retail customers of the recall.

The lawsuit alleges that C.W. suffered severe and permanent injury because of the hemolytic-uremic syndrome that resulted from the E.coli infection. The syndrome is characterized by acute kidney failure, anemia and a low platelet count.

The lawsuit states that JBS Swift manufactured and sold a beef product that was not safe as required by law. The couple seeks unspecified damages as a result, including court costs and attorneys fees.

Within days of feeding her son beef that she said was thoroughly cooked -- "a few small bites here and there" -- Cannon said she received an automated phone call from Costco advising her she had purchased products subject to the recall.

The boy fell ill with gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea and abdominal cramps, she said. He was treated at a local emergency room and released, but his symptoms reoccurred and worsened to include bloody diarrhea.

He was then admitted to the hospital, where tests showed the onset of kidney failure, according to the lawsuit. He was transferred the next day to Seattle Children's Hospital, where he was put on dialysis and given blood transfusions.

Stool samples later indicated an infection with a virulent strain of E.coi, known as 0157:H7, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also claims the strain matches that associated with the meat recall.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture hasn't confirmed a match. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control is investigating 24 illnesses in multiple states. So far, the CDC believes 18 cases could be associated with the recalled beef.

During C.W. Cannon's hospitalization, he suffered a prolapsed rectum and required four transfusions -- three with red blood cells and one with platelets, according to the lawsuit.

He was discharged after 21/2 weeks in the hospital, but his mother said his kidneys are functioning at only 30 percent of their normal capacity. Bonna Cannon said her son is on medication for high blood pressure and must be injected daily with a hormone to stimulate the production of red blood cells.

The lawsuit alleges that the boy suffered severe and permanent injury because of the hemolytic-uremic syndrome that resulted from the E.coli infection. .

The lawsuit states that JBS Swift manufactured and sold a beef product that was not safe as required by law. The couple seeks unspecified damages as a result, including court costs and attorneys fees.

More on this outbreak: JBS Swift E. coli Outbreak

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