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San Carlos woman sues Nestle over cookie dough

Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer

San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SAN CARLOS -- An 18-year-old San Carlos woman who was hospitalized for a week after eating Nestle cookie dough that may have been tainted with a deadly strain of bacteria filed a lawsuit Monday against the company.

Jillian Collins said she suffered painful abdominal cramps, nausea and bloody diarrhea after eating chocolate-chip cookie dough in May. She spent a week at Stanford Medical Center and was released in time for her graduation at Sequoia High School in Redwood City.

Collins is among 70 people in 30 states who have been sickened after eating Nestle refrigerated cookie dough suspected of containing the bacteria E. coli 0157, said Collins' suit filed in San Mateo County Superior Court. None has died.

"It's kind of shocking to me that this would even happen at all," Collins said in an interview. "It also makes me kind of feel disgusted."

Nestle spokeswoman Laurie MacDonald said, "We haven't reviewed the suit so can offer no comment on it. But we're obviously very concerned about those who have become ill and also grateful to know that they are recovering."

Collins said she bought the cookie dough shortly before Memorial Day weekend from a Safeway store in Belmont. She planned to make a batch of cookies for her 16-year-old brother and his friends as a "nice gesture" but also admitted that she "kind of had that craving for cookie dough."

Collins said she ended up eating between a quarter to a half of the raw cookie dough on May 20 and 22. Her brother and father had only small bites, she said.

On May 25, Memorial Day, Collins began to suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea and abdominal cramps, the suit said.

The next day, she was in such pain that she went to urgent care at Palo Alto Medical Foundation. "By this time, her bouts of diarrhea had turned bloody and her abdominal pain had become severe," the suit said.

She was taken by ambulance to Stanford Medical Center, where a biopsy confirmed E. coli, the suit said.

Food experts have been puzzled about how E. coli 0157, which lives in the intestines of cattle, could have ended up in cookie dough. There has been no explanation for the illnesses linked to the Nestle dough.

Collins said she had a hard time eating anything after she was released from the hospital because of flashbacks from her ordeal. She said she is now compulsively clean.

"If someone puts something down without a cutting board or plate, I freak out," said Collins, who will attend UCLA in the fall.

"Right now, I'm probably going to stick to making cookies the old-fashioned way," without any noshing beforehand, Collins said.

Nestle began recalling all its refrigerated Toll House cookie dough products, about 300,000 cases, on Friday, within a day of being notified by the Food and Drug Administration that it suspected a problem, the company said.

MacDonald said the E. coli strain implicated in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigation "has not been detected in our products, and we continue to cooperate fully with the FDA investigators who have traveled to our facility in Danville, Va., to better understand our operations there."

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

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