Suit filed over E. coli outbreak at Souplantation unit

LAKE FOREST, Calif. A 72-year-old woman has filed a lawsuit against Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp., charging that her kidneys failed after she was served food contaminated with E.coli 0157:H7 at a unit of the company's Souplantation salad buffet chain.

The woman was reportedly not among the 14 guests and one employee who were confirmed as victims of the outbreak at the restaurant here. All of the 15 ate at the restaurant between March 23 and 25. The filing raises the possibility that other customers may have been stricken but have not yet come forward.

Alice Secrist was reportedly hospitalized April 3 with abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, dehydration and fatigue, and she later needed dialysis. She did not initially test positive for the bacteria, possibly because she was on antibiotics prior to being hospitalized. The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, legal fees and other damages.

Officials have not released information about the possible source of the contamination.

The 100-unit salad-bar and buffet chain is operated by San Diego-based Garden Fresh, and includes restaurants under the name Souplantation in Southern California and Sweet Tomatoes elsewhere.