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Outbreak News

Ill girl's Highlands Ranch family sues over dough

By Jennifer Brown

The Denver Post

June 24, 2009

Madison Sedbrook, 6, was celebrating her sister's return from college the night the girls and their mom snacked on raw cookie dough.

Days later, the kindergartner was "white as a sheet," lethargic and vomiting every 30 minutes.

Now Madison's parents are among the first in the nation to sue Nestle USA after the company recalled its raw, refrigerated cookie dough last week because of a suspected outbreak of E. coli bacteria. The Sedbrooks filed a federal lawsuit againstNestle in Denver on Tuesday.

Madison was on the verge of kidney failure last month when doctors determined E. coli bacteria was the cause of her bloody diarrhea and vomiting. The little girl's blood had begun to clump, making it nearly impossible for her kidneys to function, said her mom, Cindy Sedbrook of Highlands Ranch.

The family is seeking damages to cover an expected $50,000 to $100,000 in medical bills for Madison's stay at Sky Ridge Medical Center and Children's Hospital.

The lawsuit is the first in Colorado related to the outbreak and follows one filed Monday in California by an 18-year-old woman. Both cases were filed by William Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in food-safety cases.

Nestle spokeswoman Edie Burge declined to comment on the lawsuit but said, "We're obviously very concerned about those who have become ill."

The company, she said, is focused on completing the recall of Nestle Toll House cookie dough, initiated Friday. Nestle announced the recall during a U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigation "because the health and safety of our customers is so important," Burge said.

It's unknown how this E.coli strain, one usually found in cattle manure, could have gotten into dough, but Mar ler speculated there could have been a contaminated ingredient, such as flour.

"That's pretty remarkable that it found its way into cookie dough," the attorney said. "A lot of Americans tend to eat cookie dough raw. It's pretty well-known, certainly in the industry, that people do consume cookie dough in that way."

Federal investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta called Cindy Sedbrook every two days to question her about her daughter's diet. Mostly, they asked about fruits and vegetables, but never cookie dough, Sedbrook said.

She even purchased another package of the dough after Madison had gotten ill. And Madison's dad had a tub of the stuff at his house.

Madison is healthy again after battling E. coli for about a month. She recovered just in time to attend kindergarten graduation and a ballet recital.

The CDC is investigating a link between the dough and the illnesses of about 70 people across the country whose lab results have turned up E. coli bacteria since March.Colorado has reported several cases, some in Denver, Douglas, Jefferson and Weld counties.

More on this outbreak: Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough E. coli Outbreak

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