The human face of E. coli O157:H7: 3-year-old died in 2000

Three-year-old Brianna Kriefall and her family ate at a Sizzler restaurant in South Milwaukee in July 2000. Brianna died a week later after battling E. coli-related hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Brianna, along with most of the other 140 people who were sickened in the outbreak, consumed watermelon that had been cross-contaminated with raw meat.

Genetic testing showed the microbes that made the restaurant patrons sick matched microbes contained in an unopened package of meat.

The national Sizzler chain, its local franchise and an insurance company are suing Excel Corp., the subsidiary of Cargill Inc. that produced the meat.

On Friday Brianna’s family reached a $13.5 million settlement with the company’s meat supplier and others.

The Kriefalls’ case had been dismissed in 2004 by a different Milwaukee County Circuit judge after Excel lawyers argued the company was exempt from state lawsuits because it had followed federal regulations in handling the beef sold to Sizzler.

An appeals court reversed the dismissal, saying the legal action fit within the federal goal of making food safer for consumers. The U.S. Supreme Court declined Excel’s appeal.