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Food Poison Journal Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Salmonella cases linked to hazelnuts sold at Schmidt Farm roadside stand

hazelRecent cases of salmonellosis, a foodborne illness caused by exposure to Salmonella bacteria, have been linked to hazelnuts sold at a farm stand in McMinnville, and state agencies are recommending that people who bought the nuts discard them immediately.

Officials at the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division and the Oregon Department of Agriculture announced today that laboratory and epidemiologic analyses traced the salmonellosis cases to hazelnuts sold by Schmidt Farm and Nursery along Oregon Route 18.

“People who have hazelnuts from the farm stand at Schmidt Farm and Nursery should toss them out right away,” said Paul Cieslak, MD, medical director of the Public Health Division’s Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section.

Five people became ill with a specific strain of Salmonella Typhimurium between Oct. 15 and Dec. 13. When interviewed by public health officials, three of the individuals recalled buying hazelnuts from the Schmidt Farm and Nursery stand in McMinnville. The fourth ate hazelnuts from an unlabeled bag of partially shelled nuts. A fifth case was linked to the other four cases after having tested positive for the same strain of Salmonella. Tests performed on nuts purchased at the farm also identified the same strain of Salmonella. All five cases were in adults. None of the individuals were hospitalized and all have recovered.

According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Schmidt Farm and Nursery sells only a small portion of its hazelnuts at the farm stand. Schmidt Farm and Nursery distributes the bulk of its hazelnuts through wholesalers.

“Wholesalers have steps in place that kill any Salmonella on the hazelnuts they handle before the nuts reach consumers,” said Stephanie Page, the agriculture department’s director of food safety and animal services. “To date, we have no indication there were any issues with this part of the process. The concern in this case is with hazelnuts bought at the farm stand.”

Raw or undercooked poultry, meats and eggs are the most common sources of Salmonella, but other foods such as hazelnuts can become contaminated. Contamination of other foods on a farm typically occurs when product is exposed to feces from an animal carrying Salmonella or to its environment. It also can happen when an uncontaminated product has direct or indirect exposure to product containing Salmonella. In homes, foods can be contaminated when raw or undercooked meat, poultry or eggs come into contact with other foods.

Most people who get salmonellosis become sick in one to five days after exposure. Salmonellosis can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps that can last up to seven days. Most people recover without treatment, but in some cases the diarrhea is so severe that hospital care is needed. Though rare, the most severe cases of Salmonella can lead to death if not treated.

People can take steps to prevent Salmonella at home, including washing their hands before cooking and after being around animals; keeping food preparation surfaces clean; washing raw fruits and vegetables before eating; keeping raw vegetables away from raw meat, poultry or eggs; always cooking meat and poultry to the proper temperature; and drinking only pasteurized milk and juices.

Salmonella:  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.  Our Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants.  The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.

If you or a family member became ill with a Salmonella infection, including Reactive Arthritis or Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Salmonella attorneys for a free case evaluation.