Sangar Fresh Cut Produce’s listeria outbreak will surely result in lawsuits, as well it should given that 5 people have apparently died as a result of their listeria infections.  Nevermind that they are reported to have had underlying illnesses.  They were still people with families who will never see them again.  Aside from that, its totally irrelvant to the question whether Sangar is liable to people that it’s products may have sickened or killed.

The Sangar outbreak, in these early phases of reporting, appears to be linked to chopped celery.  And, with 5 reported deaths, the Sangar outbreak also appears to be more than a simple blip on the radar screen of major foodpoisoning events.  We are only two years removed from one of the largest, most devastating listeria outbreaks in recent memory.  It occurred in Canda in 2008, and was ultimately linked to Maple Leaf Foods. 

The Maple Leaf Foods otubreak caused 57 confirmed illnesses nationally and almost unbelievably killed 23 people.  The outbreak originated from lines 8 and 9 of the Maple Leaf Foods Bartor Road facility (Establishment No. 97B) in North York, Ontario, a neighbourhood of Toronto. There were about 220 possibly contaminated products, each stamped with the code "97B" near the "Best before" date. Since the bacteria travelled through deli meats, which are cooked (and as a result are usually free of pathogens), the contamination likely occurred during packaging.

Four separate class-action lawsuits were filed in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia. The lawsuits were settled in December 2008 for $27 million. 

Lawsuits aren’t a bad thing when you consider the crippling medical costs that some victims of foodpoisoning are left to face for the rest of their lives.  Lawsuits not only have the abilty to compensate for series, sometimes life-changing injuries, they have the capacity to send shockwaves through industry and create positive change.  Just a couple of major examples that good sometimes comes from lots of bad:  after the 2006 spinach E. coli outbreak, the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement–which sets forth standardized, fairly stringent rules for the production of leafy greens–came out the other end of the illness vortex that sickened over 200 people and killed 5 (not 3, which is normally the number given). And of course, to give due credit to perhaps the other seminal food contamination event in very modern history, the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak in 1993 caused the USDA to deem E. coli O157:H7 in meat products adulterants per se, thus enabling lots of regulatory and industry progress in controlling pathogens in meat.