Bill Marler

Food Safety Advocate & Food Poisoning Attorney

Linda Rivera - The 2009 Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough E. coli Outbreak

In May 2009, when Linda Rivera dipped a spoon into the package of Nestle Toll House cookie dough she was using to make cookies for her twin sons’ prom party, she was unaware that she was also consuming a batch of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria that would eventually lead to a life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).  Four days later, Linda was admitted to the hospital, vomiting every five minutes. Doctors told her that E. coli was destroying her colon. They removed part of the organ, along with her gallbladder. Her kidneys and liver also shut down, and she was put into a medically-induced coma. When she awoke, she went into cardiac arrest, and required emergency kidney dialysis as well as 45 lbs of fluid.

Linda spent the next year of her life in Las Vegas-area hospitals. She was given last rites in expectation of her death three times. In the 13th month of her illness, she was finally transported to a rehabilitation facility, where she remains today, to begin learning to walk and communicate again. Linda will probably need multiple kidney transplants throughout the rest of her life, which has been drastically changed and shortened since her infection.

Linda Rivera was just one of 69 reported cases in 29 states. When it learned its dough was contaminated, Nestle USA voluntarily recalled many of its uncooked cookie dough products, and shut down half of its Danville, VA plant, where most of these products are made.

Investigators later determined that contaminated flour may have been the source of the E. coli contamination, rather than raw eggs, which have traditionally been viewed as the dangerous ingredient in uncooked dough.

Marler Clark has resolved over a dozen cases on behalf of victims of the outbreak, and continues to represent Linda and other victims who developed HUS as a result of their infections.  More about the Nestle cookie dough E. coli lawsuits and litigation can be found on the Marler Clark Website.

In September of 2009, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada wrote a letter to the Rivera family, promising that the Senate would take up the new food safety bill by late fall of that year.  While Reid’s promise may have been fulfilled a bit behind schedule, the Rivera family’s hopes were met when the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 passed in December of 2010 and was signed into law the next month.


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