The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and Public Health of Seattle & King County (SKC), with CDC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS), are investigating an outbreak of Salmonella I 4,,12:i:- infections linked to pork.
Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. PulseNet, the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories, is coordinated by CDC. DNA “fingerprinting” is performed on Salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people by using a technique called pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, or PFGE. PulseNet manages a national database of these DNA fingerprints to identify possible outbreaks. Five DNA fingerprints (outbreak strains) are included in this outbreak investigation. The five strains are rare in Washington.
A total of 152 ill people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella I 4,,12:i:- have been reported from Washington.
Defendant initially recalled approximately 116,262 pounds of whole hogs due to contamination by Salmonella I 4, ,12:i:-, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced.
Thereafter, as the health authorities continued to investigate the outbreak and identify more cases, FSIS continued its investigation at Defendant’s establishment. Among other things, FSIS conducted additional sampling, both product and environmental, at the establishment, and test results showed contamination of whole hogs for barbeque, associated pork products, and throughout the establishment.
FSIS ultimately deemed sanitary improvement efforts made by Defendant at its establishment insufficient, and Defendant voluntarily suspended operations.
On or about August 27, 2015, Defendant recalled approximately 523,380 pounds of pork products.
The term Salmonella refers to a group or family of bacteria that variously cause illness in humans. The taxonomy and nomenclature of Salmonella have changed over the years and are still evolving. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes two species which are divided into seven subspecies. These subspecies are divided into over 50 serogroups based on somatic (O) antigens present. The most common Salmonella serogroups are A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Serogroups are further divided into over 2,500 serotypes. Salmonella serotypes are typically identified through a series of tests of antigenic formulas listed in a document called the Kauffmann-White Scheme published by the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Salmonella.
Salmonella is an enteric bacterium, which means that it lives in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, including birds. Salmonella bacteria are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces or foods that have been handled by infected food service workers who have practiced poor personal hygiene. Contaminated foods usually look and smell normal. Contaminated foods are often of animal origin, such as beef, poultry, milk, or eggs, but all foods, including vegetables, may become contaminated. Many raw foods of animal origin are frequently contaminated, but thorough cooking kills Salmonella.
Medical Complications of Salmonellosis
The term reactive arthritis refers to an inflammation of one or more joints, following an infection localized at another site distant from the affected joints. The predominant site of the infection is the gastrointestinal tract. Several bacteria, including Salmonella, induce septic arthritis. The resulting joint pain and inflammation can resolve completely over time or permanent joint damage can occur.
The reactive arthritis associated with Reiter’s may develop after a person eats food that has been tainted with bacteria. In a small number of persons, the joint inflammation is accompanied by conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyes), and uveitis (painful urination). Id. This triad of symptoms is called Reiter’s Syndrome. Reiter’s syndrome, a form of reactive arthritis, is an uncommon but debilitating syndrome caused by gastrointestinal or genitourinary infections. The most common gastrointestinal bacteria involved are Salmonella, Campylobacter, Yersinia, and Shigella. Reiter’s syndrome is characterized by a triad of arthritis, conjunctivitis, and urethritis, although not all three symptoms occur in all affected individuals.
Salmonella is also a cause of a condition called post infectious irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is a chronic disorder characterized by alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea, both of which are generally accompanied by abdominal cramping and pain. In one recent study, over one-third of IBS sufferers had had IBS for more than ten years, with their symptoms remaining fairly constant over time. IBS sufferers typically experienced symptoms for an average of 8.1 days per month.
The Plaintiffs’ Illnesses
Plaintiff Rose Porter purchased a whole hog for barbeque at a retail store in Thurston County on or about June 27, 2015. The hog had been manufactured, distributed, and sold to the retail store by defendant Kapowsin Meats. All plaintiffs, and several other individuals, consumed the pork at a party on June 28, 2015.
Mikayla Porter fell ill the following day. She was seen in a hospital emergency room on or about June 30, 2015 at approximately 4 AM for severe gastrointestinal symptoms. She was hospitalized on July 4, 2015 for her severe illness, and remained in the hospital for 5 days, until her discharge on July 9, 2015. During her hospitalization, Mikayla submitted a stool sample that tested positive for Salmonella I 4, ,12:i:-, matching the outbreak strain by PFGE testing.
James Swatscheno fell ill on or about June 30, 2015. He was seen for his severe symptoms in a hospital emergency room on or about July 4, 2015. James’s symptoms have never completely resolved. He continues to suffer from gastrointestinal difficulties as a result of his infection by Salmonella I 4, ,12:i:-.
Rose Porter fell ill on or about June 29, 2015. She was seen in a hospital emergency room on or about July 4, 2015. She was ultimately treated for her Salmonella I 4, ,12:i:- infection with antibiotics, and also has not completely regained normal gastrointestinal function.
Roger Porter fell ill on or about July 2, 2015. He too was ultimately treated with antibiotics for his Salmonella I 4, ,12:i:- infection, but did not have any medical visits. He continues to suffer from gastrointestinal difficulties.
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.