Boskovich Farms Inc., the Oxnard green onion grower linked and then cleared in Taco Bell's E. coli outbreak in December, is firing back at the fast-food chain, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The grower contended in a lawsuit last week that the Irvine-based chain's actions libeled the farming concern and destroyed much of its business.

Taco Bell continued to link its onions to the outbreak that sickened more than 70 restaurant patrons in the Northeast in December even after it knew the produce was not contaminated, the lawsuit said.

But the fast-food chain said it acted responsibly and was only trying to keep the public informed as events unfolded.

The false connection between the farm and Taco Bell's E. coli problem has cost Boskovich "millions of dollars of business," said attorney Thomas Girardi, but he declined to state a specific dollar amount. "We had a whole crop of green onions that we couldn't even give away. It was just plowed under."

He added, "Taco Bell engaged in an irresponsible and intentional crusade to save its own brand at the expense of an innocent supplier."

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