Salmonella Lawsuits Targeting Kellogg CompanyMar 2, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP In the wake of a nationwide salmonella outbreak that has sickened over 660 people and killed nine, an Oregon family is suing the Kellogg Company, reports Oregon Business News. The lawsuit, filed by the parents of a three-year-old boy who was severely ill for 11 days following consumption of salmonella-tainted peanut butter crackers, charges g Kellogg with negligence and is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.
The lawsuit accuses Kellogg of failing to use ingredients in its products that were "safe, wholesome, free of defects" and that Kellogg "had a duty to carefully select and monitor its suppliers" but "failed to adequately supervise them," quoted Oregon Business News. The boy tested positive for salmonella matching the same strain as the outbreak, which was then followed by testing of the family’s packages of Kellogg’s Austin Toasty Crackers with Peanut Butter. The crackers also tested positive for salmonella tymphimurium,, William Keene, senior epidemiologist with the Oregon state Public Health Division, told Oregon Business News.
Kellogg was one of dozens of companies that obtained peanut ingredients from Peanut Corp. of America (PCA). Although not named in the lawsuit, PCA also faces scores of lawsuits. It is also the subject of a federal criminal investigation, and has been served with FBI search warrants because of the salmonella outbreak. The outbreak—one of the largest in U.S. history—has been linked to two of three PCA plants. PCA filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy early last month, its plants in Georgia, Texas and Virginia are closed.
The recall was followed by the discovery of revolting conditions it PCA plants in Georgia and Texas, including mold, roaches and rodent infestations. Inspection of the Georgia plant revealed that PCA shipped peanuts that tested positive for salmonella contamination at least a dozen times in 2007 and 2008. Some products were shipped before a second round of testing was conducted.
The Washington Post reports that PCA is now being sued by its insurer, Hartford Casualty Insurance. Hartford disagrees with the amount it must pay out in legal claims against PCA. The insurer and PCA are in a dispute regarding the circumstances surrounding the contamination, and whether those circumstances make the liability coverage null and void, reported the Washington Post.
Now, hundreds of companies who purchased tainted PCA products are facing financial and legal problems. According to the Washington Post, Kellogg has been named in at least six lawsuits. Forward Foods, maker of Detour protein bars, filed for bankruptcy protection after it was forced to recall 75 percent of its products. Scotts is suing its supplier over claims it lied about the peanut meal used in wild bird seed, which originated at PCA, reported the Washington Post. Scotts said it was forced to recall five such seed varieties, which caused it "substantial damages" and "significant" injury to its brand.