With annual costs attributable to foodpoisoning outbreaks topping $152 billion, there is little doubt that food-related illnesses are a major public health concern. Salmonella, just one of many potentially lethal bugs, causes approximately 40,000 confirmed cases of salmonellosis every year in the US, though the number of actual cases is likely more than 30 times higher. These statistics come as no surprise when you consider that, as one example only, over 7% of broiler chickens sold at retail are contaminated by Salmonella.
So what of this year’s progress, or lack thereof, on the nasty little bug that is one of the most common causes of foodpoisoning? Here is a selection of major Salmonella outbreaks that have occurred since the beginning of 2010:
ConAgra’s Marie Calendar’s brand Cheesy Chicken and Rice frozen entrees: ConAgra is, of course, currently embroiled in a Salmonella chester outbreak linked to its Marie Calendar’s brand products. Though the recall was announced in mid-June, the outbreak may not be over. In fact, as judged by previous frozen meal Salmonella outbreaks linked to ConAgra products, many consumers may still have the contaminated Cheesy Chicken and Rice meals in their freezer, unaware that the product could kill them. To date, the CDC counts 37 confirmed illnesses nationally in the outbreak. The outbreak has spawned two lawsuits, on behalf of Oregon men who ate the product and became ill.
Skokie Country Club: The most recent report is that 37 people have suffered confirmed Salmonella infections in the Salmonella outbreak at Skokie Country Club in Glencoe, Illinois. Eight victims have required hospitalization, and two of those victims remain hospitalized. The strain of Salmonella in the Skokie Country Club outbreak is Salmonella enteritidis, which is one of the most common of the 2,000+ different strains of Salmonella. Serotype enteritidis is frequently, though not always, associated with the consumption of undercooked eggs.
Kentucky Salmonella Outbreak: Several county health departments and the state Department for Public Health are investigating an outbreak of salmonella in three Central Kentucky counties.At least six people (and likely many more, based on word that has passed through the grapevine) who live within 5 miles of Berea have contracted the bacterial illness. Cases have been reported in Rockcastle, Madison and Garrard counties.
Caldwell Fresh Foods Sprouts: As of June 24, 2010, the CDC counted a total of 44 people infected with a matching strain of Salmonella Newport in 11 states since March 1, 2010. The outbreak was caused by raw alfalfa sprouts produced by Caldwell Fresh Foods, a Maywood, California company. The number of ill people identified in each state with this strain is as follows: AZ (4), CA (19), CO (1), ID (6), IL (1), MO (2), NM (2), NV (4), OR (2), PA (1), and WI (2). Illnesses began between March 1, 2010 and June 1, 2010. Among the 34 patients with available hospitalization information, 7 (19%) were hospitalized.
Utah Raw Milk Outbreak: Utah health officials have linked two outbreaks—one campylobacter and one salmonella—to the consumption of raw milk. The campylobacter outbreak is linked to raw milk purchased from Ropelato Dairy in Ogden, Utah, and has resulted in at least 9 illnesses in residents of Weber, Davis, and Cache counties. On Monday, the Utah Department of Health suspended Ropelato Dairy’s permit to sell raw milk. Coliform testing done on milk at the dairy showed high coliform counts, which suggest the presence of disease-causing bacteria, like campylobacter, in the milk.
The second raw milk outbreak in Utah (a salmonella outbreak) sickened at least 6 people in late April in Utah, Salt Lake, and Wasatch Counties. The outbreak was linked to raw milk from Redmond Farms in Sevier County. Samples of raw milk produced at the dairy from April 5 to April 22 tested positive for Salmonella.
Casa Lopez in Athens, Ohio: The Athens City-County Health Department noticed a sharp uptick in Salmonella infection in early May 2010, and were able to trace the outbreak back to Casa Lopez, located at 1017 East State Street in Athens. At least 45 people had confirmed illnesses in the outbreak, with hundreds likely sickened who did not get tested. We filed suit on behalf of 19 year old Tyler Nay on June 18.
Los Dos Amigos: Los Dos Amigos, a mexican restaurant in Roseburg, Oregon, was the site of a large salmonella outbreak in April. Douglas County health officials report that at least 30 people suffered culture-confirmed salmonella foodpoisoning illnesses, and that cross-contamination was probably a cause of the outbreak. We filed suit on May 19 on behalf of a Roseburg, Oregon resident sickened in the Los Dos Amigos outbreak. We represent a number of other people sickened in the outbreak as well.
Subway Salmonella in Illinois: Subway restaurants from across the state of Illinois have been associated with a very large Salmonella Hvittingfoss outbreak that has sickened around 100 people in 28 counties with confirmed foodpoisoning illnesses. The actual number of people sick in the outbreak may be in the thousands, as studies have demonstrated that, in any outbreak of Salmonella, as many as 38.6 times the number of confirmed illnesses are actually ill. Subway, which has issued an apology to its customers, acted quickly on learning of the outbreak to remove many fresh produce items from its Illinois restaurant locations. There has been no official word as to which item in particular was the cause of the outbreak. We filed suit on behalf of Alicea Bush-Bailey in June for injuries suffered in the outbreak.
Salmonella Montevideo Outbreak linked to Salami and Pepper: According to the CDC, 272 people were sickened by Salmonella montevideo from since July 2009 after consuming salami that was manufactured using salmonella-contaminated red and black pepper. The salami was manufactured and sold by a Rhode Island company called Daniele Inc. The pepper (both black and red), which has long been known to have been the original source of contamination, was imported and sold by two companies: Wholesome Spice Company and Mincing Oversease Spice Company. We represent a number of people sickened in the Salmonella Montevideo outbreak, including Ray Cirimile and Lee Hanks, who have pending lawsuits against the companies involved.
Bullock’s BBQ in North Carolina: The Durham County Health Department (DCHD) investigated a foodpoisoning outbreak among persons who ate food prepared at Bullock’s Barbecue, located at 3330 Quebec Drive in Durham, in late April, 2010. Ultimately, the N.C. State Public Health Laboratory was able to determine that the strain of salmonella involved in the outbreak was Salmonella enteritidis, likely introduced into the restaurant environment by contaminated eggs. We represent multiple people for foodpoisoning illnesses suffered in this outbreak.
Chico "Margarita Mix-off" Outbreak: At least 15 Salmonella illnesses among residents or visitors to Chico, California have been linked to the Margarita Mix-Off event held at Manzanita Place on May 8. Health authorities have been unable, thus far, to pinpoint the precise source of the bacteria; food at the mix-off event was served by at least six separate local restaurants
Salmonella spinach and lettuce outbreaks and recalls in May: Fresh Express, a subsidiary of Chiquita Brands International, Inc., lettuce products caused a Salmonella outbreak in the “Upper-Midwest” in late April or early May 2010. Not much is known about this outbreak, at least publicly, because the health organizations involved in the investigation did not publicly reveal that the outbreak had occurred.
Several weeks after the outbreak, however, Fresh Express recalled several types of ready-to-eat salads after Salmonella was found in a package tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The recalled products included lettuce mixes, Caesar salad and other salad kits, hearts of romaine and other items. The recall extended to products sold in 26 states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Also in May 2010, Organicgirl Produce recalled a limited number of cases of 10 oz organicgirl Baby Spinach with an expired Use-by Date of May 22 and Product Code 11A061167 due to potential Salmonella contamination. The recall included only 336 cases of the 10 oz. package size of organicgirl Baby Spinach sold in six states: Alabama, North Carolina, Oregon, Wisconsin, Arizona and California. Like the Fresh Express recall, Organicgirl recalled the baby spinach products due to a positive test for Salmonella in a random sample test collected and conducted by a third-party laboratory for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein recall from Basic Foods Flavors: And of course, one of the biggest food recalls in history deserves mention, even though it was a recall only, and there were no reported illnesses linked to the product. Earlier this year, a Nevada company called Basic Food Flavors recalled its hydrolyzed vegetable protein product, after testing by a customer showed the the HVP was contaminated by Salmonella Tennessee. HVP is an ingredient in many further processed food products, causing the recall to expand, ultimately, to at least 177 separate food products. Reports suggest that Basic Food Flavors continued to sell its HVP product for at least a month after learning that the product was potentially contaminated.