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Pizza Ranch sued for bacteria outbreak that sickened several

This news story was published on March 17, 2016.
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ORANGE CITY, IOWA – Pizza Ranch restaurants, based in Iowa with local restaurants in Mason City, Garner and Charles City, is facing a lawsuit after people who ate at their restaurants got sick.

The federal lawsuit was filed after a number people reportedly got sick, including a Kansas child, whose stool sample shoed the presence of the E. coli bacteria.

Attorneys Elliot Olsen and Ryan Osterholm, national food safety lawyers, filed the first lawsuit against Pizza Ranch today, March 17, 2016, on behalf of the family of S.S., a 7-year-old girl from Kansas who was sickened in an E. coli outbreak associated with eating at a Pizza Ranch restaurant.

“Our young client is one of 13 people from 9 states sickened in the outbreak: Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina South Dakota, and Wisconsin, the attorney said in a statement.

The lawsuit alleges that on January 31, 2016, the family of S.S. ate at the Pizza Ranch in Emporia, Kansas. S.S. ate food from the buffet including, but not limited to fried chicken, pizza, breadsticks, salad, and dessert pizza. A few days after this meal, S.S. began to feel ill. She had stomach cramps and then developed bloody diarrhea.

The parents of S.S. brought her to her pediatrician, who ordered a stool sample, which tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. S.S. was hospitalized for over 2 weeks. During her hospital stay, S.S. developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a complication of E. coli infections that is the most common cause of acute renal failure (ARF) in children and may also cause ARF in adults. Characteristic features of the syndrome are microangiopathic anemia, thrombotic thrombocytopenia, and renal (kidney) failure.

The Kansas Department of Health test results revealed that S.S. had contracted E. coli O157:H7 with a PFGE pattern that matched infections suffered by 12 other people. In December 2015, the CDC and other health departments detected a spike in cases caused by E. coli O157:H7 in persons who had eaten at Pizza Ranch restaurants. PFGE testing on samples from 13 ill individuals revealed a common PFGE (pulsed-field gel electrophoresis) pattern. Public health officials, including the CDC, then traced the outbreak-causing food to Pizza Ranch restaurants in several states. On March 16, 2016, the CDC confirmed the implicated food as items served at Pizza Ranch, according to the complaint filed in the case.

The illnesses took place between December 2015 and February 2016. Two children, S.S. and another child, were hospitalized with HUS. Dough used to make desserts is the suspected source of the E. coli outbreak. But, health officials have not yet determined how the contamination occurred.

Since late January, the attorneys have been assisting public health officials who are investigating 13 cases of illness attributed to a specific strain of E. Coli O157 bacteria. Nine of the affected individuals reported having eaten at nine different Pizza Ranches in seven states. There are also individuals multiple states away from the nearest Pizza Ranch that reported not eating at Pizza Ranch that have the same strain of E. Coli O157, though health investigators have not been able to pinpoint how they contracted the strain. The last reported illness related to this outbreak reported eating at one of our locations on January 30, 2016. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has told us that it believes the outbreak is concluded.

Following the announcement of the lawsuit, Pizza Ranch issued the following statement:

Mason city Pizza Ranch restaurant

Mason city Pizza Ranch restaurant

We removed our Skillet Dough mix immediately from use in response to information suggesting that this product was a possible common factor in the illnesses and subsequently expanded this product withdrawal to include our Original Dough mix.

The fact pattern shows that the source of bacteria originated from an outside supplier rather than at our restaurants. Several states collected products from Pizza Ranch restaurant locations to test for the presence of E. Coli O157 though it was not found in any products tested. Pizza Ranch independently ran over 40 tests on different products to test for the presence of E. Coli O157 and it was not found in any products tested. We provided public health investigators with a list of all of our ingredients as well as contact information for our ingredient suppliers. We also contacted the supplier of our dough mixes regarding this issue with the request that they cooperate with state and federal health officials. Pizza Ranch has also ceased using this outside supplier to supply its dough mix.

In addition, we instructed all Pizza Ranch locations to complete a special, precautionary cleaning of all surfaces and equipment used in dough preparation or service. Our franchisees and their team members responded with professionalism and great attention to detail. As a result, we continue to have absolute confidence in the quality and wholesomeness of every item we serve. All Pizza Ranch locations are open and serving their full menu.

We have no higher commitment than the safety of our guests and our people. We will continue to work with public health officials at the local, state and federal levels on this issue and on a daily basis to fulfill that promise.”

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One Response to Pizza Ranch sued for bacteria outbreak that sickened several

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    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    March 19, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Not eating there anymore