Salmonella Outbreak Keeps Local Lawyer Busy

Source of Article:

Lawyer Fields Dozens Of Questions Daily



updated 7:46 a.m. PT, Thurs., Feb. 12, 2009

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Buying something from a vending machine is a choice we make in seconds, often without thinking.

But these days people are pondering peanuts as they hit vending machines and convenience stores. And with a national salmonella outbreak concerning peanut products, it's probably a good thing.

"Every time we go in there, there was cockroaches," said a former worker from the Peanut Corporation of America who did not want to be identified. She is talking about conditions at the facility in Georgia. They are conditions that are now being blamed for sickening hundreds nationwide.

"People get diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain," said West Palm Beach infectious disease specialist Dr. Olayemi Osiyemi.

Osiyemi has not yet seen any patients get sick locally from this outbreak. But with more than 1,800 recalled items, from brownies to snack bars to ice cream, it's still possible.

"In some cases it can advance to where people get really sick and the bacteria gets into the blood and you have to be in the hospital," said Osiyemi.

This is much different than the Peter Pan salmonella outbreak a few years back, explained attorney Brian Smith, and that's because there's no jar left behind. Many of the contaminated products are sold in vending machines or convenience stores, so someone could throw away the wrapper and have no idea of what made them sick.

"There are some people who've said, 'I've bought a whole box of these crackers from Costco or Sam's Club,' and so we have some product to be tested," Smith told WPBF News 25's Cathleen O'Toole.

Smith is fielding questions from hundreds of consumers and already has two dozen clients from this outbreak.

He feels the conditions described at this facility send a distressing signal about American food safety.

"Filthy, putrid are some of the words being used to describe it," said Smith. "So it is extremely concerning to me. I know that Congress is looking at it and I think there will be some revamping of the (Food and Drug Administration) because of it."

While the government tries to crack this contamination case, there are still homes where the peanut is king.

"I actually bought peanut butter for my daughter a week ago," said Osiyemi, laughing.



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