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Food Poison Journal

Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Ready to Eat Products Recalled

Great American Marketing, a Houston, Texas establishment, is recalling approximately 475 pounds of FSIS and FDA-regulated, ready-to-eat products due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The sandwich and wrap products were produced on July 15, 2014, and then shipped to retail locations in Texas. Case labels or packaging may bear the sell by date of 07/26/14.

Products regulated by FSIS bear the establishment number “EST 31680” or “P-31680” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The following FSIS-regulated products are subject to recall:

7.4 ounce plastic-covered tray packages containing Chicken Caesar Wraps.

8.1 ounce plastic-covered tray packages containing Club Wraps.

FDA-regulated products being recalled (are listed at http://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls) and include:

10.5 ounce plastic-covered tray packages containing Ham and Cheddar Premium sandwiches.

10.5 ounce plastic-covered tray packages containing Turkey & Swiss Premium sandwiches.

The problem was discovered when FSIS collected a sample of a separate product on July 15, 2014, that was confirmed positive for L. monocytogenes on July 23. The sampled product was held. However, the plant produced the additional FSIS and FDA regulated products listed in this recall without conducting a complete clean-up of the production equipment. Those products have entered commerce and are subject to recall. FSIS and the company have received no reports of illnesses associated with consumption of these products.

Consumption of food contaminated with L. monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, a serious infection that primarily affects older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women and their newborns. Less commonly, persons outside these risk groups are affected.

Listeriosis can cause fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. An invasive infection spreads beyond the gastrointestinal tract. In pregnant women, the infection can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn. In addition, serious and sometimes fatal infections in older adults and persons with weakened immune systems. Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics. Persons in the higher-risk categories who experience flu-like symptoms within two months after eating contaminated food should seek medical care and tell the health care provider about eating the contaminated food.

Updated List of Stores Nationwide Recalling Listeria Tainted Fruit

Recalled fruit consists of conventional and organic yellow and white nectarines, yellow and white peaches, black plums and pluots

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has posted a list of all fruits recalled to date from the Wawona Packing Co., including packing numbers, searchable lot codes and Block ID numbers. The agency has also posted photos of the clamshells, boxes and bags the recalled fruit was shipped in or packaged in for retail sale at a variety of stores under the Wawona brand, Harvest Sweet or Sweet 2 Eat labels.  The FDA photo pages, along with company photo pages, also show product weights and corresponding UPC numbers for the recalled fruit.

Food Safety News reports that the following stores received the product and have reported recalls:

Trader Joes, Costco, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Krogers, Aldi and Wegmans

I also find press reports of fruit recalls from:

Food 4 Less

Foods Co.

Giant Food Stores

Martins

Hannafords

BJ’s Wholesale

Dillons

Save-a-Lot

Fry’s

King Soopers

Stop & Shop

Big Y Foods

Ralphs

Whole Foods

Also, exported fruit to Canada and Australia has been impacted.

Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Florida Resident Sickened By Hepatitis A from “Organic Antioxidant Blend” Purchased at Costco

Plaintiff is one of 162 people in western U.S. States who have fallen ill from the product

 Marler Clark, the nation’s only law firm dedicated to representing victims of foodborne illness, has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of California on behalf of plaintiff Karen Echard, who was sickened with hepatitis A (HAV) after consuming “Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, ” a frozen berry and pomegranate seed mix purchased at a Costco retail store. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined the product to be the cause of the outbreak. Co-counsel on the case are respected California attorneys Frederic L. Gordon and Richard R. Waite. The suit’s case number is CV14-05281 JAK (VBKx).

As of October 28, 2013, a total of 162 ill persons infected by HAV have been reported from 10 states. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Arizona (23), California (79), Colorado (28), Hawaii (8), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (11), Nevada (6), Utah (3), and Wisconsin (2). There were 71 hospitalizations and no known deaths.

Plaintiff Karen Echard is one of those sickened with HAV by the product. The Osecola County, Florida resident became ill on May 21, 2013 after consuming the product she purchased at Costco in April 2013. This was before the HAV outbreak was known and Costco had removed the product from store shelves. The fruit mix she purchased and consumed was imported, manufactured, distributed, and sold by defendants Costco, Townsend Farms, Purely Pomegranate, Fallon Trading, and United Juice. Costco stores removed the product from store shelves on or about May 31, 2013. As of the time of the filing of her complaint against the defendants, Karen was still recovering from her HAV infection.

“Many people think that healthy foods are not susceptible to HAV and other foodborne illnesses, but that is just not true,” 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. “Healthy foods are just as prone to these illnesses as milk and eggs.”

Hepatitis A, which causes severe gastrointestinal illness and, in severe cases, liver failure and death, incubates in the human body for between 15 and 50 days. Many people with hepatitis A don’t experience any symptoms at initial onset, but if they do these can mimic the flu. Once the disease hits the liver, victims can experience severe stomach pain, dark urine, jaundice, itchy skin, body aches, and general weakness. The infection can continue for weeks or months.

“It is always very hard learning about an HAV outbreak, especially since it is so easy to eliminate the threat. Hepatitis A is a serious disease, but it’s also the only foodborne illness that is vaccine-preventable,” Marler said.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Hepatitis A outbreaks. The Hepatitis A lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Hepatitis A 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 Hepatitis A lawyers have litigated Hepatitis A cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as green onions, lettuce and restaurant food.  The law firm has brought Hepatitis A lawsuits against such companies as Subway, McDonald’s, Chipotle, Quiznos and Carl’s Jr.

Romaine Lettuce Likely Cause of E. coli Outbreak in Arizona, California, Texas and Washington

We have filed two lawsuits to date and represent about a dozen of the ill.

The CDC reported on December 11, 2013, a total of 33 persons infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 were reported from four states.  The number of ill persons identified in each state was as follows: Arizona (1), California (28), Texas (1), and Washington (3).  32% of ill persons were hospitalized. Two ill persons developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and no deaths were reported.

Epidemiologic and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials indicated that consumption of two ready-to-eat salads, Field Fresh Chopped Salad with Grilled Chicken and Mexicali Salad with Chili Lime Chicken, produced by Glass Onion Catering and sold at Trader Joe’s grocery store locations, was the likely source of this outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections.

On June 17, 2014, the California Department of Public Health Report concluded that:

An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections occurred in October and November of 2013, affecting 33 individuals in four western states.  The outbreak disproportionately affected California residents, accounting for 85 percent of all case-patients. Two varieties of prepackaged RTE salads produced by “Company A” (Atherstone Foods – Glass Onion Catering) and sold by “GCA” (Trader Joe’s) were implicated as the source of infection.  This is supported by the statistically significant association of case-patients with consumption of one of the two implicated “GCA” salad varieties and by the regional distribution of reported cases matching the regional distribution of these two salads.  No other food items or exposures were associated with illness.  While these salads were strongly associated with the outbreak, the exact source of the contamination remains undetermined.

Today the Food and Drug Branch – Emergency Response Unit – of the California Department of Public Health produced the Environmental Investigation of an E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak in October 2013 Associated with Pre-packaged Salads. The report 28 pages long with several hundred pages of attachments, traces the consumption of the salads to the possible source of the E. coli O157:H7 contamination.

This report not only implicates the two varieties of prepackaged salads noted above, but also two others – one produced by Atherstone Foods – Glass Onion Catering – and another produced by an unnamed manufacturer in Oakland – both for sale at Walgreens.

The investigators concluded that the one common item between the two manufacturers and the four salads was romaine lettuce from a single filed in Modesto, California grown shipped by Ratto Bros., and grown by Lake Bottom Farms, LLC.  Five of 44 environmental samples collected in areas around the implicated farm tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, however, the “positive samples were not a genetic match to the outbreak strain” – not a match to the ill people.

I found an interesting notation regarding audits (name of auditor redacted by CDPH) – this is on page 14 of the report:

Ratto Bros. also underwent routine audits from a third party, _____. The most recent _____ audit before the implicated romaine harvest was on August 8, 2013 (Exhibit B). The audit was performed on Ranch 6, 9, and 10 and the audit evaluated two areas, food safety management system requirements and good agricultural practices requirements. The firm had received a total score (before corrections) of 95.91% out of a possible 100%. The area where Ratto Bros. lost points in the audit was in good agricultural practices. They were marked down because there was animal activity (birds) on Ranch 6 during the audit, there were three dogs observed on land adjacent to Ranch 6, a water source was accessible to animals, and a water source was not free from a contamination issue (vegetation). The final _____ audit score was recalculated after corrective actions were performed by Ratto Bros. The final score was 99.32% out of 100% due to the fact that not all of the firm’s corrective actions were accepted by the _____ auditor. The corrective action that was not accepted by the _____ auditor was the non-conformance related to animals having access to the water source (open canal). The firm had taken measures to ensure that water used for irrigation, washing of equipment, and mixing of pesticides remained free of contaminants by filtering the water from an open source, chlorinating, testing regularly, maintaining equipment to ensure that it was not a source of contamination to the water source, and employing personnel and a security company to patrol the ranches. The aforementioned measures were not accepted by the _____ auditor, thus not allowing the full score of 100% to be reached. (Exhibit C).

Here are all Attachments and Exhibits.  We have filed five lawsuits to date and represent about a dozen of the ill.

E. coli:  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.