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Food Poison Journal

Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

17 Illnesses Prompt Staphylococcus Enterotoxin Protein Powder Recall

Project Healthy Living, Inc. of New York, New York (d/b/a Aloha, Inc.) is voluntarily recalling all packages of Premium Protein powder in chocolate and vanilla blends because it has the potential to be contaminated with Staphylococcus enterotoxin. The presence of Staphylococcus enterotoxins may be injurious to health and may result in staphylococcal food poisoning. Nausea, vomiting, retching, abdominal cramping, and prostration may occur. In more severe cases there may be headache, muscle cramping, and transient changes in blood pressure and pulse.

The Aloha Premium Protein products were distributed nationwide from November 2014 through January 2015 directly to consumers through online sales and in New York through a very limited number of retail stores. All sizes of Aloha’s Vanilla and Chocolate Premium Protein blends are being voluntarily recalled. This product is packaged and sold in both 14-serving sized steel tins and single-serving sized pouches. The single serving pouches may be in kits that contain other products not affected by the voluntary recall.

To date, Aloha has received 17 complaints from customers who have reported transient gastrointestinal symptoms consistent with staphylococcal food poisoning. This voluntary recall is a result of an extensive testing program, which Aloha began immediately following individual customer complaints of gastrointestinal issues. Aloha is working closely with its manufacturer, co-packers, ingredient suppliers and distribution partners to determine the source and cause of the contamination.

Aloha has temporarily ceased production and distribution of the Premium Protein products until further analytical testing can confirm the specific source of the contamination.

Trader Joe’s Needs to be Accountable for 2013 E. coli Outbreak

Trader Joe’s and Glass Onion Catering is facing 10 lawsuits brought on behalf of victims of a 2013 E. coli outbreak. Public health officials traced the E. coli outbreak to salads made by Glass Onion Catering and sold at the grocery chain.

According to attorney Bill Marler, whose law firm represents 11 plaintiffs that they fell ill with E. coli infections after eating salads sold at Trader Joe’s, the company was added as a defendant to two lawsuits previously filed against salad-maker Glass Onion Catering in California and in 3 new lawsuits filed Wednesday in California and Washington state. The plaintiffs allege in the lawsuits that Glass Onion Catering and Trader Joe’s sold food that was “not fit for human consumption, and not reasonably safe because it was contaminated with E. coli O157:H7”.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state and local health departments counted 33 people from 4 states who were confirmed ill with E. coli infections after consuming Glass Onion Catering salads and wraps sold at Trader Joe’s and other retail outlets in October and November of 2013. Two people, including one of the plaintiffs, developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a complication of E. coli infection that can cause kidney failure and central nervous system impairment.

“Retailers need to be held accountable for what they sell,” said attorney Bill Marler. “In my opinion, over the last two decades retailers have begun to care less about the safety of what they sell just as long as it sells.  Retailers now try to push blame for the sale of tainted food that sickens customers onto everyone but the retailer. That needs to stop.”

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of E. coli outbreaks and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The E. coli lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other foodborne illness infections and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our E. coli lawyers have litigated E. coli and HUS cases stemming from outbreaks traced to ground beef, raw milk, lettuce, spinach, sprouts, and other food products.  The law firm has brought E. coli lawsuits against such companies as Jack in the Box, Dole, ConAgra, Cargill, and Jimmy John’s.  We have proudly represented such victims as Brianne Kiner, Stephanie Smith and Linda Rivera.

Brent’s Deli Comes Clean (Almost) About 2014 Salmonella Outbreak

Well, that was after they were sued – see 2014 Outbreak of Salmonella Montevideo, Brent’s Deli Westlake Village.

Dear Customers:

As a family-run business that serves hundreds of customers daily at our Westlake Village location, the news of even one customer becoming sick as a result of dining at our restaurant is of deep concern. We are committed to delivering our customers high quality meals and service, and this service includes our focus on food safety.

This past summer, we were notified by Ventura County officials that a few customers who reported dining at our Westlake Village restaurant were confirmed to have Salmonella.

Our Response

Once notified, we immediately worked with Ventura County health officials to evaluate our food safety practices, and immediately addressed and corrected all of its directives. At no time were we required by County health officials to close our store.

To ensure the safety of our customers and employees, we initiated the following steps:

We voluntarily closed our Westlake Village location to have the entire restaurant thoroughly cleaned and sanitized by a third-party cleaning company.

We took the additional step of hiring the services of UL Everclean, consultants who specialize in food safety audits, assessments and trainings for the restaurant industry.

In addition to the regular audits by Ventura County health officials, UL Everclean regularly conducts unexpected audits of our food safety practices – from testing how food is handled and prepared, to reviewing serving practices, and evaluating food prep and storage areas – and works with us to implement any necessary changes and additional employee training.

Our Commitment

Our focus has always been on customer satisfaction and providing a high-quality experience to the thousands of loyal customers who visit our locations in Westlake Village and Northridge. We are focused on continuous improvement – and will continue to take a hands-on approach in order to prevent similar situations from happening in the future and put our customers’ safety first, always.

Avoiding the months long Salmonella outbreak in 2014 would have been the best and being open about it at the time would have avoided much of the fallout.

Lawsuit Filed by California Woman Sickened by Salmonella Montevideo from Brent’s Deli

Plaintiff is one of 21 people infected in 2014 Salmonella outbreak following countless health violations against Westlake Village restaurant

Ventura County resident Stephanie Wehr filed a lawsuit against Brent’s Delicatessen & Restaurant over a severe case of Salmonella poisoning she suffered after eating at the restaurant’s Westlake Village location. Wehr is represented by Trevor M. Quirk of Quirk Law Firm, LLP in Ventura, CA., and Bill Marler of Marler Clark, a Seattle-based firm specializing in food safety.  See Outbreak Investigation Timeline.See Inspection Reports.

In 2014, Wehr was one of 21 people who became seriously ill after eating food tainted with Salmonella serotype Montevideo from Brent’s Delicatessen & Restaurant in Westlake Village, which is located in Ventura County. Two of the victims were employees of Brent’s. Eight customers were hospitalized.

Wehr, who purchased and consumed a sandwich and potato salad from Brent’s Deli on August 2, 2014, began feeling ill the following day while at work. For the next several days, she experienced agonizing symptoms, including excruciating abdominal pain, uncontrollable diarrhea, high fever, nausea, and vomiting. She made several trips to see doctors at Kaiser Oxnard and was prescribed medication, but due to nausea and vomiting, she was unable to keep it down. She again contacted Kaiser on the morning of August 5 and was admitted.

By the time she was admitted to the hospital, she was lethargic and short of breath. Her heart rate was an astounding 118, nearly twice the normal resting rate for a healthy adult. Since seeing a doctor the day before, she had lost 10 pounds. Because of severe stomach cramps, her abdomen was too tender to undergo examination. Soon she was admitted to Ventura Community Memorial Hospital where she stayed for five days, and ultimately was diagnosed with Salmonella poisoning.

The County of Ventura Environmental Health Division conducted an on-site inspection at Brent’s Deli on July 9, 2014—more than three weeks before Wehr ate there. Multiple food safety violations were noted including improper sanitation, cooling, and storage issues. The restaurant manager was instructed to correct all violations immediately. A follow-up inspection was conducted on July 22. Major food safety violations were again noted. Specifically, potentially hazardous foods were not properly cooled, that is held at or below 41 degrees. In addition, wiping cloths were not kept in sanitizing solutions between uses and employees were not properly washing their hands before handling food or clean utensils, among other violations.

“Considering that the owners and management of Brent’s Deli had multiple opportunities to fix known health violations, we can only guess they willfully ignored the problems, said Bill Marler, who has been working to help improve food safety standards since representing victims of the Jack In The Box E. coli outbreak in the early 1990s.

“There is no excuse for the negligence of Brent’s Deli and the failure of its owners and management to perform to legal food safety standards,” said Trevor Quirk, who has been a victim advocate for close to a decade. “Brent’s may have a reputation for a family atmosphere, but they knowingly put their customers at risk over easily remedied health violations, like improper hygiene standards.”

During the August 2014 Salmonella outbreak, after continuing reports of sickened customers, the health department once again inspected the restaurant. Multiple violations—including issues noted in previous inspections—were found. During the investigation, no food or environmental samples tested positive with the outbreak strain of Salmonella, but stool samples from two employees did. Previous health department violations noted that employees were not properly washing their hands after using the restroom and before returning to work.

Salmonella is transmitted by food, water, or surfaces that have been contaminated with the feces of an infected animal or person. Symptoms develop 6 to 72 hours after infection. One of the best ways to prevent the spread of Salmonella is to have proper hygiene and hand washing practices in place, especially after using the bathroom and before handling or preparing food.

Quirk Law Firm, LLC was founded in 2006 in Ventura, California with offices in California and Nevada. 100% of the practice is devoted to representing people who have been injured or lost a loved one. Quirk Law Firm represents diverse clients including accident victims, homeowners’ associations, start-up and established businesses, professional skateboarders, professional models, employees, and everyday individuals.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.