E. Coli: Woman Paralyzed After Severe Food Poisoning; The Unsafe System, Meat

12/03/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Stephanie Smith, a children's dance instructor, thought she had a stomach virus. The aches and cramping were tolerable that firstday, and she finished her classes.

Then her diarrhea turned bloody. Her kidneys shut down. Seizures knocked her unconscious. The convulsions grew so relentless that doctors had to put her in a coma for nine weeks. When she emerged, she could no longer walk. The affliction had ravaged her nervous system and left her paralyzed...

Ms. Smith's reaction to the virulent strain of E. coli was extreme, but tracing the story of her burger, through interviews and government and corporate records obtained by The New York Times, shows why eating ground beef is still a gamble. Neither the system meant to make the meat safe, nor the meat itself, is what consumers have been led to believe.

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