A Phoenix man is suing Trader Joe’s and Glass Onion Catering and Gourmet Foods, the manufacturer of ready-to-eat salads that were linked to an outbreak of a deadly strain of E. coli last year that sickened 33 people in four Western states.
The outbreak has been traced back to romaine lettuce produced in a single field, grown directly across from a cattle operation in Modesto, Calif. The strain of E. coli linked to the outbreak is most commonly found in cattle manure.
State public-health investigators from California could not determine a root cause of the outbreak, but they believe contaminants from the cattle field may have blown on to the lettuce grown by Ratto Bros., according to the investigative report. The grower has improved and adopted new procedures to prevent future contamination, the report says.
The case highlights the responsibility of everyone involved in the farm-to-table continuum — including growers, manufacturers and sellers — because consumers have no control over how a pre-packaged product is made, said Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney representing Rabinowitz and the other victims in the outbreak.
“There’s no consumer intervention here at all. You’re not going to buy a pre-made salad, take it out and wash it, and put it back in again,” said Marler, a national expert who has represented food-poisoning victims for more than 20 years. “Frankly, that’s why we sued. … This really requires more responsibility on the part of the entity that’s selling you the product.”