Peanut Corp. of America Sued by Family on Behalf of ChildrenFeb 20, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP David and Sarah Kirchner filed suit against the Peanut Company of America (PCA) on behalf of their two children—three-year-old Michael and six-month-old Lily—who fell ill as a result of consuming products originating from PCA and tainted with salmonella, said the Star Tribune. This is just one of dozens of lawsuits filed against PCA by or on behalf of people who became ill or died as a result of PCA’s filthy operating conditions and ongoing negligence.
The Kirchner’s filed suit this week, alleging negligence and seeking unspecified damages, said the Star Tribune. Both young children were sick over the Christmas holidays, with Michael having to spend three days in the hospital. The children experienced painful diarrhea, with Lily—who is only six months old now—falling ill first in early December, reported the Star Tribune. Michael likely was the first to be infected and passed the illness to Lily before he showed symptoms, Sarah Kirchner told the Star Tribune; both children lost weight and are easily tired.
The peanut butter crackers Michael ate were one of the 2,300 recalled foods in 17 categories, recalled by hundreds of companies that were contaminated with salmonella and produced with products supplied by PCA. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that over half of those sickened—numbering over 640 in 44 states and Canada—have been children; nine deaths are being attributed to the massive outbreak.
In addition to dozens of lawsuits, PCA is at the center of a criminal investigation, bankruptcy filings, FBI search warrants, and possible criminal charges urged for by Congress. PCA filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy on February 7, which means it will liquidate its assets to repay creditors. Authorities recently closed PCA’s Texas plant and the Virginia plant—the only plant not linked to salmonella—said Newsday in a prior report.
Last month, inspections of the Georgia plant found that PCA shipped peanuts that tested positive for salmonella contamination at least a dozen times in 2007 and 2008. At the time of that discovery, PCA officials told the FDA that those peanuts tested negative for the bacteria in a second round of testing; however, the FDA learned PCA actually shipped some peanuts before the second round of tests were completed. Other lots were shipped without testing and, in some cases, no second test was performed, even after the first came back positive. Those same inspections of the Blakely plant turned up mold, roaches, and a leaking roof.
The Texas Department of Health recalled everything made in Plainview after horrifically revolting conditions, including dead rodents, rodent excrement, and bird feathers in a crawl space above a production area, were discovered. The plant, although never licensed and never inspected prior to the outbreak, was operating since 2005.
The Virginia facility was found to have flaking paint and evidence of rodents in 2007 and 2008. The problems were classified as minor, and PCA promised to fix them, reported the Associated Press in an earlier article. When inspectors returned a second time in 2008 to ensure this was done, they found two dead mice in traps in a warehouse, as well as an open door, and a 32-inch-wide gap in strip curtains “completely exposed to the entrance of pests,” said the AP. Mold was also found on the outside of 43 totes of blanched peanuts.