(NaturalNews) It's not meat or spinach this time; a petting zoo is now under fire for being the cause of a recent E. coli outbreak. To add to the already uncommon and arguably alarming circumstances, the lawsuit is being driven by the condition of an 18-month-old child.
Last month, an outbreak of E. coli led to an investigation that linked the infections to the Cleveland County Fair. State officials stated earlier in November that 106 people became sickened, and a Gaston County two-year-old child actually died. Now, a civil complaint has been filed on behalf of 18-month-old Dominic Westfall, who fell ill with E. coli after a visit to the fair.
The defendants in the case are both the fair and Circle G Ranch. The ranch's website says that Circle G is a private, USDA-licensed facility in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, and a spokesperson for the ranch stated that their petting zoo was only one of thousands of exhibits at the county fair that involved animal contact. The spokesperson also expressed condolences to those who had been infected, but noted that there was no negligence on the ranch's part. The press release insisted that none of their animals were infected prior to the fair, nor are any animals infected currently - additionally, the ranch claims that all animals passed USDA inspection before they attended the fair.
The Westfall family is being represented by nationally-known food safety lawyer Bill Marler and Asheville attorney Mark Kurdys. Marler has commented that he suspects the county fair and the ranch both have limited insurance, and that there needs to be a strategy to compensate for the 106 people who suffered from the E. coli outbreak. He expects that over $1 million is the combined total of medical bills for all patients.
The civil complaint states that mother Amie Westfall and her son, Dominic, visited the fair and the Circle G petting zoo. Later, her son started displaying gastrointestinal symptoms, followed by fever and bloody diarrhea shortly after. Dominic was taken to the CMC Lincoln Emergency Department. During his stay there, he developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a potentially life-threatening complication affecting the kidneys. He was discharged on October 15 after suffering permanent injury to his kidneys. The family is seeking at least $10,000 in damages.
Circle G has said that, despite their confidence that they played no role in the outbreak, they will cooperate with the proceedings. The petting zoo has been confirmed as the source of the outbreak, but health officials also note that heavy rains may have been a factor by washing waste to nearby parking lots and walking areas.