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Families File Suit Against San Diego County Fair Operators For E. Coli Outbreak

A 2018 photo of the San Diego County Fair at sunset.

Credit: Courtesy of San Diego County Fair Facebook

Above: A 2018 photo of the San Diego County Fair at sunset.

Seven families who say they were affected by last year's E. coli outbreak linked to the San Diego County Fair, including one whose 2-year-old son died as a result, filed a lawsuit Friday against the fair's operators.

The suit alleges the 22nd District Agricultural Association was negligent in the operation of its petting zoo and other animal exhibits featured at the 2019 County Fair at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Jedediah Cabezuela died as a result of E. coli poisoning connected with the fair's animal exhibits, according to the lawsuit.

The fair, which ran from May 31 to July 4, closed its animal exhibits soon after Jedediah's June 24 death.

Officials from the 22nd District Agricultural Association could not immediately be reached for comment.

The suit states that all seven families visited the fairgrounds between June 8 and June 22 at areas "near the presence of animals, such as the petting zoo, animal exhibits and/or livestock barns."

Members of each family then developed symptoms such as fever, stomach cramping, vomiting, diarrhea and were diagnosed with STEC, "a shiga-toxin producing strain of E. coli O157:H7," according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges fair operators "encouraged and allowed its patrons, including plaintiffs, to walk through and interact with animals in the exhibits," while failing to warn patrons of the "known risks."

Fair organizers are also faulted for allegedly failing to provide adequate hand-washing stations, failing to inspect, clean, maintain and disinfect the fairgrounds, not properly inspecting or screening animals featured at the fair, and not adequately training employees to guard against the risk of infection.

The outbreak remains under investigation by the Health and Human Services Administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, according to the suit.

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