Woman Clinging to Life After Eating E. Coli-Tainted Cookie Dough

A 57-year-old woman clinging to life in a Las Vegas hospital serves as a warning as to how dangerous and potentially deadly foodborne illnesses can be, according to an article published in the Los Angeles Times Wednesday.

Linda Rivera, who has spent several months in room 519 at Kindred Hospital, can no longer speak. Many of her organs have failed. She is one of nine other victims across the country who developed a life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome after eating Nestle cookie dough contaminated with E. coli.

A 4-year-old girl in South Carolina with the same condition had a stroke and is partially paralyzed, according to the newspaper. Rivera suffered a swift collapse of her health in May after she ate several spoonfuls of Nestle Toll House cookie dough.

Eighty people in 31 states were sickened by the cookie dough, which was temporarily recalled after the E. coli contamination was detected. The Nestle victims are among millions — 1 in 4 Americans — sickened by food-borne illnesses each year. Numerous food recalls over the past couple of years have caused the public to lose confidence in the safety of food and lawmakers are scrambling to respond.

Rivera's problems started about a week after she ate the dough, when her kidneys shut down and she went into septic shock. Doctors removed her colon and gallbladder, which also became infected.

Later, her liver failed. Doctors are unsure why she cannot speak, however toxins producted by E. coli can infect the brain. The House approved legislation that would speed up the ability of health officials to track down the source of an outbreak and give the government the power to mandate a recall, rather than rely on food producers to voluntarily recall products.

The Senate is expected to take up its version the bill in the fall.

Click here to read more on this story from the Los Angeles Times.