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Colorado Man Suing Wal-Mart for Pepper Poisoning

Aug 4, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

According to a recent Washington Post article, Colorado man Brian Grubb, is suing Wal-Mart and an unnamed supplier because of Salmonella poisoning he suffered after consuming jalapeño peppers bought from Wal-Mart that were tainted with the same strain of Salmonella—Salmonella Saintpaul—that has sickened over 1,300 people since April.

The suit—just filed in US District Court in Colorado—alleges that Grubbs' wife purchased the tainted peppers at a Wal-Mart in Cortez, Colorado on June 26; Grubb eats the peppers raw on sandwiches. The suit also states that within a few days Grubb began experiencing diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea, among other symptoms, and claimed to be severely dehydrated, requiring assistance to walk. Testing on Grubbs’ stool and on the peppers confirmed positive for Salmonella Saintpaul, according to the lawsuit, which also alleges that Wal-Mart and its supplier were negligent in distributing and selling tainted peppers and are liable for the quality of its merchandise, among other claims. "Hopefully, this lawsuit will send Wal-Mart a bit of a message that they are just as responsible as the farmer in Mexico for providing healthful food," attorney William Marler told the Washington Post.More...

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Daphne Davis Moore said the retailer had not yet reviewed the suit and would not comment on Grubbs' claims, noting that Wal-Mart destroyed all Mexico-grown jalapeños following a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning on July 25. "Obviously, food safety is very important to us. It's a matter we take very seriously," she said. "We'll take a very close look at it."

On Wednesday, Federal health officials identified jalapeño and serrano peppers from a Mexican farm as the source of the outbreak. The outbreak was first linked to tomatoes grown in Florida. Now, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, Charles Bronson, is sharply criticizing the way in which the FDA handled the Salmonella outbreak that cost American tomato growers over $300 million. At a congressional subcommittee meeting, Bronson said the FDA’s decision to limit the information it shared with states made it difficult to assist them. Bronson also criticized the FDA for not asking states to provide it with information, for instance asking if local farmers were even growing the suspect product and in what harvest stage such product might be, the FDA could have easily narrowed its investigations’ focus. Although federal officials released a statement saying that the outbreak was traced to irrigation water and peppers grown on a farm in Mexico, they have refused to completely clear tomatoes as carriers of the bacteria. Meanwhile, Bronson said losses to Florida farmers, which are still being calculated, are expected to be in the millions, making Florida tomato growers the latest victims in the federal government's failure to quickly resolve the Salmonella outbreak.

Years ago, the government acquiesced to lobbyists and refused to implement an electronic record-keeping system that could have more quickly determined the source of food-borne illnesses avoiding the record delays and additional illnesses now seen in what is one of the largest Salmonella outbreaks in this nation’s history. Experts believe if better record keeping was in place, tomatoes might not have been mistakenly blamed in this outbreak.


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