Kroger Hit with Lawsuit Over Tainted Ground Beef

A New Albany, Ohio woman filed a lawsuit against the Kroger Co. and a yet-unnamed meat supplier alleging that contaminated ground beef she bought at a Dublin, Ohio Korger landed her in the hospital with the toxic E. coli strain O157:H7.

The lawsuit, filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court on behalf of Amanda J. Adam, 26, by Seattle attorney William D. Marler, stated that the plaintiff purchased beef patties from the Kroger unit on June 4.

After cooking and consuming the beef the same day, the lawsuit said, Adam began feeling ill on June 8, and over the next two days her symptoms became increasingly severe. By June 10, she was experiencing intense nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps, and was subsequently admitted to the hospital, where she tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. She was released on June 12, and continues to recover from her illness.

A Kroger spokeswoman did not respond to requests from Progressive Grocer for a response to the lawsuit.

The Ohio Department of Health has 22 confirmed cases, including 10 in Franklin County, according to the lawsuit, which claimed E. coli illnesses began surfacing in central Ohio in mid-June, at the same time as a rash of in E. coli cases in Michigan.

By June 20, food safety officials had genetically linked many of the Ohio and Michigan cases; and in the days that followed, the outbreak was traced to ground beef from Kroger stores.

Kroger responded by initiating a voluntary recall on June 25 for all varieties and weights of ground beef products bearing a Kroger label, sold between May 21 and June 8 at Michigan stores, as well as Kroger stores in Columbus and Toledo, Ohio. The ground beef products are marked with a sell-by date between 05/21/08 and 06/08/08.

Kroger has recalled beef and beef products at least five times over the last seven years, the lawsuit stated, adding that since the spring of 2007, over 34 million pounds of E. coli contaminated beef has been recalled by different companies.

After the latest recall, Kroger had posted a "frequently asked questions" section concerning on its Web site, which included:

Q: Why are you recalling this ground beef today?
A: We are voluntarily recalling all ground beef products that were sold between May 21 and June 8, 2008 at Kroger stores throughout Michigan and in central and northern Ohio (Columbus and Toledo areas) because we have been notified by state and federal health authorities that E. coli illnesses reported in Michigan and parts of Ohio have been linked to ground beef products sold in some Kroger stores in those regions.

Q: Is there any of this ground beef for sale in your stores?
A: None of the ground beef is currently available for purchase. We are voluntarily recalling it because some customers may have some in their freezers. If consumers do have Kroger ground beef products - regardless of packaging - with sell-by dates of May 21 through June 8 in their freezers, they should return them to stores for a full refund or replacement.

Q: Am I safe if I ate it?
A: Anyone with signs of or symptoms of foodborne illness should consult a medical professional.

Q: How do I know if my ground beef is cooked properly?
A: Proper handling, storage and cooking of ground beef offers the best protection against food-borne illness. According to the USDA, when ground beef is thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees, any harmful bacteria are destroyed and the ground beef is safe to consume.

Q: What if I have other questions?
A: Please contact Kroger toll-free at (800)-632-6900.
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