Family falls ill, sues over tainted peanut butterFeb 21, 2007 | Chicago Sun Times Deverne Staples thought nothing of the peanut butter sandwiches she fixed for herself and her three kids as an after-school snack on Feb. 1. Until the next day. That's when Ryan McCollum, her 10-year-old son, started "throwing up violently," the South Shore woman said.
Nine-year-old Rose Staples was next to get sick, followed the next day by Jonathan Staples, 13, and Staples, 36, who spent several hours in the emergency room at the University of Chicago Hospitals on Feb. 4 after experiencing vomiting, diarrhea, cramps and high fever.
"I did not know what was happening," said Staples, whose kids eat peanut butter at least three times a week. "I had never experienced anything like that before. I knew that it had to be more than just a normal flu."
On Tuesday, Staples pointed a finger at ConAgra Foods, in a lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court accusing the Omaha, Neb., food company of negligence and seeking more than $50,000 in damages.
"I want people to know how serious food poisoning can be," Staples said. "It is something that shouldn't be taken lightly."
Hers is one of at least five lawsuits filed nationwide, and at least the second in Cook County, in the wake of a massive recall of peanut butter linked to salmonella contamination.
The outbreak has spread to 39 states and sickened 290 people, including six in Illinois, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Federal investigators are focusing on Peter Pan and Great Value brands of peanut butter with the product code 2111 made at a ConAgra plant in Georgia.
Staples, a counselor, described her family's ordeal as "absolutely devastating." After hearing about the recall last weekend and doing a computer search, she went to her pantry and found that the product code on her peanut butter jar matched the recall.
She said she and her three children are still recovering. Her oldest son, Eric, 15, lucked out. He prefers chunky peanut butter to creamy, so he didn't have a sandwich that day and didn't get sick.