Lawsuit blames sprouts for E. coli infection

The Spokesman-ReviewMay 28, 2014 

— A Coeur d’Alene woman who was hospitalized with an E. coli infection earlier this month has sued a North Idaho sprouts producer and the restaurant she says served her the food that made her sick.

Honey Sayler, 33, filed suit Tuesday against Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, of Moyie Springs, and the Jimmy John’s restaurant in Hayden.

Sayler is one of eight Northwest residents who were confirmed to be infected with the strain of E. coli, and investigators believe all of them ate raw clover sprouts grown at Evergreen.

About six days after she ate a veggie sandwich at the restaurant, Sayler began to experience severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems.

On May 8, she went to the emergency room at Kootenai Health and learned she had a thickening of her colon wall. Later that day, she was admitted to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane and spent two days there. She tested positive for E. coli O121 and was sick for eight days.

Sayler, a stay-at-home mom and former schoolteacher, said she experienced intense cramping she found was similar to labor. “It was not what I expected food poisoning to feel like. It was a lot more serious than I realized.”

Washington and Idaho health officials warned consumers last week to avoid eating clover sprouts from Evergreen. Those who became ill were from Spokane County, King County, Kootenai County and Montana. Five were hospitalized.

The sprouts were in sandwiches served at several Jimmy John’s locations as well as two Pita Pit restaurants and Daanen’s Deli in Kootenai County, health officials said. The restaurants voluntarily suspended serving sprouts.

The Jimmy John’s restaurant in Kennewick closed for a little more than a day late last week while Benton-Franklin Health District officials investigated some reports of gastrointestinal illness.

Susan Shelton, the health district’s food safety program manager, said it doesn’t appear the illnesses were related to sprouts served there, noting sprouts were removed before the reports came in and symptoms weren’t consistent with E. coli.

The restaurant was cleaned and sanitized before it reopened, food was replaced and health district officials provided some staff training, Shelton said.

David Scharf, owner of Evergreen, said last week he tests his sprouts thoroughly and is confident they are safe.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are involved in the investigation.

Sayler is represented by Marler Clark LLP PS, a Seattle law firm that specializes in food safety cases. She said the suit is not just about covering her medical bills; it’s about drawing attention to the risks of raw sprouts.

Sayler said she doubts she will eat sprouts again. “They’re really not that safe for people to be eating.”

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