First Lawsuit Filed in Salmonella Sprout OutbreakApr 1, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
Lawsuit With The Salmonella Outbreak Linked To SunSprout
The first lawsuit connected with the multi-state Salmonella outbreak linked to SunSprout Enterprises’ sprouts, has been filed, reports the Associated Press (AP). The lawsuit was filed yesterday in Douglas County District Court, Omaha. The contamination has sickened over 121 people in Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, and Colorado. SunSprout brand sprouts were distributed by CW Sprouts of Omaha and sold at grocery stores and restaurants.
The AP reported that Stephen Beumler, 48, is suing CW Sprouts because it failed to prevent the spread of the dangerous, sometimes deadly pathogen, in its products. Beumler said he fell ill early last month after eating sprouts distributed by CW Sprouts, said the AP; soon after, his doctor confirmed he was infected with Salmonella Saintpaul, said Forbes. Salmonella Saintpaul is the strain responsible for the outbreak linked to SunSprouts products and is also the same strain that was to blame in last year’s massive Mexican pepper recall that was first linked to tomatoes.
The sprout outbreak involved SunSprout alfalfa, onion, and gourmet sprouts. SunSprout issued a voluntary recall of the products; however, the recall was lifted when no cause for the contamination was revealed during an investigation, said KGAN, in an earlier report. After the recalled sprouts were sent to food distributors, those distributors then sold the sprouts to restaurants and retail stores, MarketWatch said last month.
Lawsuit Cites Over 121 Cases
According to Forbes, the lawsuit cites over 121 cases confirmed in the five states in February and March and alleges that CW Sprouts did not appropriately “monitor safety and sanitary conditions” in addition to failing to prevent the spread of the infection in its products. Victims might be eligible to receive reimbursement for costs related to medical care and lost pay, said WOWT in a prior report, noting that any business in the food chain, from farm to table, could be potentially liable in the multi-state outbreak. From farm to table includes just that: Any party involved in the process, for instance, grocery stores and restaurants, in addition to growers, processors, and distributors.
Of note, sprouts present a very unique challenge when a food borne outbreak occurs because sprouts can become tainted with salmonella prior to harvesting, when they are growing. Also, the conditions required for sprout growing are optimal for growing pathogens. Bacteria need the right temperature, nutrients, and water and sprouts grow in watery, warm environments, which are ideal for rapid bacterial growth. Sprouts are often eaten raw with no additional treatment, such as cooking, which eliminates bacteria that can cause disease and food borne illnesses; washing sprouts does not necessarily remove bacteria because bacteria grow within the sprouts and cannot be washed away.
Salmonella causes 40,000 confirmed cases each year, but, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is probably responsible for close to 40 times that—a stunning 1,600,000—noting that 2,500 subtypes of Salmonella exist, said MSNBC in an earlier report. Salmonella can cause serious, sometimes fatal salmonellosis infections in young children and weak or elderly people. Healthy people may experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, if infected. Without treatment, severe cases of Salmonella can result in death; however, some Salmonella bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, largely due to the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of feed animals.
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