GRANDVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — As expected, the late-summer E. coli outbreak tied to Wendy’s restaurants in the Midwest, including a West Michigan location, has resulted in a number of lawsuits.
The outbreak sickened 109 people in the US, including 58 in Michigan. One of the state’s 58 cases has been tied to a Wendy’s restaurant in Grandville.
Seattle-based attorney Bill Marler represents 39 people in six states that ate at Wendy’s restaurants tied to the outbreak. Illnesses ranged from bad stomachaches to more serious health issues.
“Some of them have risks of long-term kidney complications,” Marler said. “You have 13 people who suffered a near-death experience by eating a sandwich at Wendy’s.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has closed its investigation. A report from the agency said the outbreak ended before they could trace the source.
“The common denominator, the overwhelming common denominator in this outbreak was they ate at Wendy’s. So there’s no question that the outbreak emanated from Wendy’s as opposed to something else,” Marler told News 8.
He said the likely culprit is west coast lettuce. Marler, who has spent over three decades representing food poisoning victims, said lettuce from California and Arizona has been a big problem in the last few years.
Much of that lettuce is gown near cattle farms, and cow manure is the source for E. coli.
“It gets into the environment. In the water. And it can become airborne, blow in the wind and get on fruits and vegetables,” Marler said.
The lawsuits are against Wendy’s Corporation and their franchisees.
But why not sue the growers?
“It’s Wendy’s choice to buy lettuce that’s grown in Salinas and grown in Yuma, Arizona,” Marler explained. “The problem is that restaurants, stores aren’t taking as much time and putting enough pressure on their supply chain to gown this products in areas that the products won’t get contaminated.”
The outbreak hit Michigan especially hard, with over half the known cases. One reason for that is the bacteria has a chance to grow on the trip from California to the Midwest.
Another reason, according to Marler, is state health inspector follow ups identifying outbreaks.
“They’re very good at tracking theses outbreaks. They’re leading an investigation now into another E. coli outbreak linked to Aldi’s falafels,” Marler said.
News 8 reached out to Wendy’s for comment but have not heard back.