ConAgra faces 39
suits over bad peanut butter
After nine days in the hospital suffering from acute septic shock, including six in the intensive care unit, . returned home and innocently resumed her nightly ritual.
By the time the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued the February alert that prompted a recall of Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter produced at ConAgra Foods Inc.¡¯s manufacturing plant in Sylvester, . was back in the hospital.
., whose hospital stays cost her more than $100,000, is now a plaintiff in one of 39 food-poisoning suits involving dozens of litigants that stem from the salmonella contamination at the Sylvester plant.
As the plant reopened this week and ConAgra began a marketing campaign to reintroduce Peter Pan peanut butter to consumers, those suits have mushroomed into multidistrict litigation in federal court in Atlanta. U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr. will preside over the litigation, in which plaintiffs are seeking more than $5 million in damages from ConAgra.
Attorney Robert H. Smalley III at McCamy, Phillips, Tuggle & Fordham in Dalton has joined with Elizabeth J. Cabraser at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein in San Francisco as plaintiffs attorneys in a potential class action that currently includes 32 people, some of whose children were hospitalized with salmonella poisoning after eating the contaminated peanut butter.
Smalley said that he is aware of several circumstances in which someone died, possibly after eating the contaminated peanut butter, and his firm is investigating. ¡°There certainly are some very unfortunate circumstances that we are looking into that we think may well be related,¡± he said.
The other plaintiffs¡¯ lawyer is Seattle attorney William D. Marler, who has built his reputation by successfully litigating on behalf of thousands of people sickened by E. coli, salmonella, Listeria and other food-borne illnesses.
Marler¡¯s successes include suits on behalf of the families of E. coli-sickened children against the fast-food hamburger chain Jack in the Box in 1993 and against fruit juice producer Odwalla Inc. in 1996. In 1998, Marler represented several metro-Atlanta children sickened with E. coli they contracted through contaminated swimming pool water at Marietta¡¯s White Water amusement park, among them the 4-year-old son of then Atlanta Braves shortstop Walt Weiss. Marler¡¯s small clients included the most critically ill children who were hospitalized after their E. coli exposure.
Marler¡¯s Web site states that the Seattle attorney eventually settled the White Water claims for ¡°millions of dollars.¡±
Marler¡¯s firm, Marler Clark, has also represented victims sickened by E. coli they contracted in 2002 from contaminated ground beef produced at a ConAgra meatpacking plant. ConAgra settled with those victims without litigation, according to a Marler Clark pleading on file in Atlanta.
Marler Clark is adopting a two-pronged offense in the ConAgra litigation. The firm is representing plaintiffs who were sickened by the contaminated peanut butter in a potential class action. But it also is filing individual suits on behalf of more seriously stricken clients who were hospitalized with salmonella poisoning.
The firm has established a class action Web page and has been contacted by more than 2,200 families whose family members were sickened with salmonella after eating Peter Pan or Great Value peanut butter, according to the Web site.
Marler¡¯s firm, according to the Web site, is investigating three deaths ¡°that may be tied to the outbreak.¡±
¡°Based on what we have already learned, it is clear that the problems at the Sylvester, Georgia, plant were more systemic than presently admitted by ConAgra,¡± Marler said in a statement.
The product liability suits associated with salmonella-contaminated peanut butter from ConAgra¡¯s Sylvester plant are flowing into U.S. District Court in Atlanta from across the country, including Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida and Oklahoma. Multiple plaintiffs have complained they were sickened multiple times because they unwittingly continued to eat tainted peanut butter that ConAgra did not recall until February.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, Peter Pan peanut butter manufactured in Sylvester that was part of the company¡¯s recall was distributed nationwide and in more than 60 countries. Great Value peanut butter suspected of containing the salmonella bacterium was distributed nationally through Wal-Mart, according to the FDA.
During the fall of 2006, Pulsenet (a national network for detecting food-borne disease coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) noted a ¡°slowly rising increase¡± in cases of salmonella Tennessee?the strain that was eventually traced to the Sylvester peanut butter plant, according to the CDC.
To date, the CDC has documented more than 628 individuals who were stricken with salmonella poisoning in 47 states that could be traced back to Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter. Of those, 20 percent were hospitalized, according to the CDC, which has reported no deaths associated with the outbreak.
But the plaintiffs¡¯ attorneys suggest in court pleadings that thousands of others may have been sickened by the contaminated Georgia peanut butter. Several of the salmonella complaints transferred to Atlanta from other states also suggest that ConAgra has ¡°a history¡± of allowing the distribution of other contaminated foods and of failing to meet minimum food safety requirements in their manufacturing operations.
Those suits detail 2002 recalls of 19 million pounds of ground beef products produced at a ConAgra meatpacking plant in Colorado and of 36,000 pounds of chicken products at another ConAgra food processing plant later that year.
The suits also list a 2003 ConAgra recall of 129,000 pounds of chicken suspected of glass contamination, a 2005 recall of nearly three million pounds of prepackaged lunch meat and cracker products suspected of Listeria contamination, and the February 2007 recall of more than 400,000 pounds of undercooked pasta and meatball meals that could carry food-borne bacteria.
Angela M. Spivey of McGuireWoods in Atlanta, who is defending ConAgra, was not in the office Thursday and could not be reached for comment. Her associate referred questions to ConAgra¡¯s corporate spokeswoman.
Stephanie Childs, director of corporate communications at ConAgra¡¯s corporate headquarters in Omaha, Neb., insists that ConAgra is ¡°absolutely committed¡± to food safety and that ¡°consumer safety is our top priority.¡±
Childs acknowledged that, prior to the peanut butter recall earlier this year, ConAgra did institute several beef recalls at other plants around the country. But, she added, ¡°We no longer own those plants.¡±
And while Childs would not comment on the ongoing contaminated peanut butter litigation, she said, ¡°As a company, we have made a commitment to address consumer concerns related to the recall fairly and expeditiously.¡±
Childs said that, beginning Feb. 14, ConAgra closed down the Sylvester plant, halted all peanut butter shipments and initiated a voluntary recall of the Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter produced there. The recalled peanut butter carried a product code that covered peanut butter manufactured at the Sylvester plant since May 2006.
Since then, Childs said, ConAgra has worked alongside the FDA to identify and eliminate the source of the salmonella contamination even as the corporation completely renovated the Sylvester plant. ¡°We used it as an opportunity to renovate the plant and create a state-of-the-art facility,¡± she said.
Those renovations included repairing a roof leak that Childs said is suspected?along with two instances in which the plant¡¯s sprinkler system went off?of providing a damp environment in which ¡°dormant salmonella¡± bacteria could grow. Childs said that an estimated 20 percent of harvested peanuts are contaminated with salmonella and that, as a result, raw peanuts and peanut dust in the plant could have been tainted with salmonella bacteria.
Salmonella is a bacterium that lives in the intestinal tracts of humans and other warm-blooded animals, including birds, according to court pleadings. Salmonella bacteria are usually transmitted to humans through contaminated food or water. Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include acute nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain. It can potentially be fatal to children, the elderly or individuals with compromised immune systems.
This week, David Palfenier, president of ConAgra¡¯s grocery division, told The Associated Press that the corporation intends to begin shipping Peter Pan peanut butter?which has been completely off the market since the February recall?to retailers on Monday. The company hopes to restore annual sales that reached $150 million before the recall.
Meanwhile, everyone who became ill after eating Peter Pan peanut butter, Palfenier added, will receive coupons for a free jar of peanut butter from ConAgra.
butter plant hit by salmonella to reopen
SYLVESTER, GA. - ConAgra Foods
Inc. said that it plans this month to reopen the Sylvester, Ga., plant
where thousands of jars of peanut butter linked to a national outbreak
of salmonella were filled.
The plant was shut down in February after health officials linked Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter to a salmonella outbreak. More than 600 people in 47 states, including Minnesota, reported becoming ill, and the company faces lawsuits in several states.
The Peter Pan brand will be back on store shelves this month, although initially it will be produced at another plant, a ConAgra spokeswoman said.
Between Crohn's Disease And E. Coli Bacteria
Crohn's disease, an incurable inflammatory disorder of the intestine -- most commonly found in the lower part of the small intestine called the ileum -- affects 1-in-1,000 people in Europe and North America. Thus far, gut bacteria have long been suspected in playing a pivotal role in the development of Crohn's disease, but the specific bacterial characteristics that drive the inflammatory response have remained elusive.
Researchers at Cornell examined possible causes for the disease in patients with Crohn's restricted to the ileum and the colon versus healthy individuals.
"Given that only about 20 percent of fecal bacteria can be cultured, our group adopted a broad culture-independent approach to target specific subgroups of bacteria for quantitative in situ analysis and culture based characterization," said Kenneth Simpson, professor of small animal medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine.
The study found an increased level of E. coli bacteria in more inflamed areas of the small intestines instead of MAP, a bacterium related to tubercle bacillus that has been more commonly associated with Crohn's.
Reference: "Culture independent
analysis of ileal mucosa reveals a selective increase in invasive Escherichia
coli of novel phylogeny relative to depletion of Clostridiales in Crohn's
disease involving the ileum" The ISME Journal: Multidisciplinary
Journal of Microbial Ecology, July 12, 2007
intensify food safety supervision in rural areas
Malaysian students fall down with suspected food poisoning
International Conference for Food Safety and Quality (Nov.
6-7, 2007), South San Francisco Convention Center
Diagnostics Introduces New Hygiene Monitoring Test for Food Surfaces
The Lumitester¢çPD-10N/LuciPac¢âW system is a unique patented platform with a proprietary enzymatic recycling technology that enables detection of both AMP and ATP. It offers significant advantages over other hygiene monitoring systems on the market, which, due to the unstable nature of ATP, may not give a true indication of cleaning efficiencies. AMP is a stable, persistent molecule with the ability to give users a more precise, reproducible indication of the effectiveness of both cleaning and sanitation programs.
Strategic Diagnostics¡¯ Lumitester¢çPD-10N/LuciPac¢âW system possesses several key advantages over competitive methods, including:
SDI¡¯s test provides extremely accurate results even when only small amount of residual biological material is present. This allows the user to take action to produce cleaner surfaces at a lower cost when appropriate cleaning methods are applied. Clean surfaces stay cleaner longer, cost less to maintain, and reduce the risk of inadvertent pathogen contamination.
The patented reagents are detergent tolerant, another distinguishable advantage over competitive methods. The Lumitester¢çPD-10N/LuciPac¢âW system sees residual biological material competitive methods can miss when cleaning chemicals interfere with the sample detection.
Filed After Veggie Booty Sickens Children
Source of Article: http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/01255/veggie-booty-salmonella-poisoning.html
Albany, NY: The maker of Veggie Booty children's snacks faces another lawsuit after an outbreak of salmonella poisoning sickened approximately 60 people. This second lawsuit was filed by the parents of two children who became ill after eating Veggie Booty. More lawsuits are likely to be filed as further information about the salmonella outbreak becomes available.
The second lawsuit was filed after two 20-month-old babies ate Veggie Booty and subsequently developed a fever, abdominal cramping and bloody diarrhea. One of the children was nearly hospitalized for treatment of her salmonella symptoms. Her parents report she had a temperature of 105.3 and lost 2.5 pounds while she was sick. The plaintiffs have said that all they wanted from Robert's American Gourmet, makers of Veggie Booty, is an apology; however, by the time the lawsuit was filed, the company had not offered an apology. The family's dog also developed salmonella but has since recovered.
The first lawsuit against Robert's American Gourmet was filed by the parents of an Indiana boy who became ill three days after eating Veggie Booty on May 20. The 18-month-old developed severe diarrhea and was diagnosed with salmonella poisoning at a hospital.
Veggie Booty, and a sister product called Super Veggie Tings, was recalled after an outbreak of salmonella was traced back to the snack food. According to the company, the salmonella was actually found in a spice imported from China and used to season the snack food.
Salmonella Wandsworth, the strain of salmonella linked to the Veggie Booty recall, has never had a reported outbreak in the United States. In fact, the only documented outbreak of Salmonella Wandsworth occurred in the late 1970s in a hospital in Hong Kong. Traditionally, only five cases of Salmonella Wandsworth poisoning occur in the U.S. each year.
According to FDA News, Salmonella usually causes diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever, with symptoms beginning one to four days after exposure to the bacteria. In some cases, particularly infants and people with weakened immune systems, Salmonella can infect the blood stream, causing potentially fatal infections. Most of the reports of Salmonella poisoning related to Veggie Booty involved children under the age of 10. At least five individuals were hospitalized after eating the snack food.
Veggie Booty is a snack food that contains kale, spinach, carrots, broccoli, and cabbage. The food, which is baked, can be purchased at food stores, supermarkets, health food stores, and vending machines. Veggie Booty is also included in some gift baskets available through the Internet.
Robert's American Gourmet has actually recalled its products before. The previous recall involved false food nutrition information that was listed on nutritional labels for Pirate's Booty. A staff member at the Good Housekeeping Institute tested Pirate's Booty and found it had three times more fat than advertised. In fact, tests showed that the snack food had 8 grams of fat and 147 calories, but the packaging claimed Pirate's Booty contained only 2.5 grams of fat and 128 calories. A different lab found that Veggie Booty had 10 grams of fat at the time.
Contaminated oyster warning
Source of Article: http://weblog.signonsandiego.com/news/breaking/2007/08/contaminated_oyster_warning_1.html
The county's Department of Environmental Health is alerting the public about oysters grown in the southern part of Hood Canal in the State of Washington that may be linked to several local cases of intestinal disease.
Officials said some oyster-growing areas in there have been closed because of concerns over Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a foodborne illness that is caused by eating raw or undercooked shellfish. There are three local cases of the illness being investigated. Environmental Health staff is checking local food businesses to ensure they are not selling those oysters.
food safety practices at Agriprocessors in Postville
The disease eats holes in the
brains of cattle and is incurable. Humans can develop a similar variant
called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease after eating infected beef.
Safety: Safety's shrug
An Associated Press story released earlier this week both raised our eyebrows and churned our stomachs. The story reports that about 1 million pounds of Chinese "pond-raised" seafood -- catfish, shrimp and eel -- were not sent to labs for screening despite being on the Food and Drug Administration's "import alert" list for iffy foods, possibly tainted with chemicals and drugs deemed unsafe for consumption
Although the FDA maintains the shipments weren't "incorrectly released" into the market, the agency is looking into the results of the AP's investigation, which showed that in an eight-month period, 28 shipments of the pond-raised (or farmed) seafood on the FDA watch list made it into stores without being tagged and tested -- that amounts to how much seafood 66,000 Americans would eat in a year.
It's understood that funding for FDA screeners has not kept up while our rate of imports from China continues to boom. But the fact that the potentially sketchy seafood still made it into the bellys of Americans is cause for concern, if not alarm.
Given that China clearly is having quality-control issues (tires, toothpaste, children's toys, etc.), we have two choices: Either enforce tougher security measures in inspecting cargo or cut back on our imports from China. Pointing the finger of blame at China for its lapses in ensuring product safety while shrugging off our own is not an option.
Tip: Food Poisoning From Fish
examines effect of chemicals in baby foods
The project, started by the German National Research Centre for Environment and Health (GSF), will focus in particular on chemicals which affect the hormone system. Depending on the findings, the project's conclusions could have severe reprecussions for baby food manufacturers if any adverse effects are found. "Chemicals in commercial baby food have a greater impact on the still embryonic tissue of a growing child than on the tissue of an adult who has stopped growing," said Karl-Werner Schramm, a GSF spokesperson. More and more babies are either never breastfed or are only breastfed for a short time. Instead, these babies are fed with industrially-prepared formula milk or solids such as vegetable puree.
However, the effects of the
chemical residues found in these products on babies' health remains unclear,
said Schramm. "Because the nervous system, respiratory system and
reproductive organs of babies are not fully mature, it is harder for them
to get rid of toxins," Schramm stated. "Furthermore, children
take up health-damaging substances from food more easily than adults do."
In the Babyfood project, the scientists involved will develop tests to analyse levels of substances such as cadmium, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These will be tested to see how receptors in our cells react to the 'chemical cocktail' in babies' blood.
"There is evidence that cadmium and pesticides influence oestrogen receptors, while dioxins and PCBs attach themselves to the receptor that triggers damaging oxidative stress in the cell," said Schramm.
The scientists will feed three groups of babies different types of baby food, including normal formula milk, soya or hypoallergenic milk. Using the tests the scientists hope to create a risk assessment for these different types of food.
As the products will be pooled, they will not be able to pass judgement on specific brands, but they expect to be able to develop recommendations for the best kinds of foods to give babies in the first nine months of life, Schramm stated.
The Babyfood project is a part of the EU's Cascade network, which brings together over 20 working groups from nine countries to coordinate and integrate research on chemical residues in food.
Cascade is funded under the EU's food quality and safety thematic area.
Dept of Public Health wins
Matrix MicroScience is delighted to announce that one of its clients, the California Dept of Public Health (CDPH) has won the prestigious International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Food Safety Innovation Award. The presentation was made to the Microbiology Laboratory Staff of the CDPH Food & Drug Laboratory Branch, Richmond, CA at the IAFP 2007 Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL.
In the IAFP citation, it was noted that the award is presented to an individual or organization for creating a new idea, practice or product that has improved public health and quality of life by making a positive impact on food safety. The Microbiology Lab Staff of CDPH was recognized for its innovation in optimizing the novel Pathatrix recirculating immunomagnetic separation (RIMS) technique for identifying E. coli outbreak strains from food and environmental samples.
The RIMS methodology development was originally a cooperative project between the CDPH Food & Drug Lab Branch, led by Sunee Himathongkham, and the US Food & Drug Administration¡¯s San Francisco District Laboratory team, led by David Lau.
The optimized method was used during the 2006 E. coli O157:H7 traceback investigation of the outbreaks implicating spinach, milk and lettuce. Using this method, the molecular pattern of the strains isolated from the environment matched the patient outbreak strains for the first time.
As a result of the studies carried out, the Pathatrix RIMS system has become a CDPH approved method for the isolation of E. coli O157:H7; and a paper which has been submitted to the Journal of Food Protection is in press.
Dr Jeff Farrar, Food & Drug Branch (FDB) Chief, said, ¡°We appreciate the recognition for the Food and Drug Laboratory Branch and FDA-San Francisco District lab staff who have worked very hard to develop this new method. The method was utilized during several recent outbreaks with outstanding success. We have already had numerous requests for the methodology.¡±
The Pathatrix RIMS technology
is supplied exclusively by Matrix MicroScience and CEO Dr. Adrian Parton,
said ¡°It¡¯s great to see a novel technology being used to solve real problems
in the real world. CDPH and the FDA were among the first to recognize
the potential for the application of the Pathatrix / RIMS methodology.
And their foresight is now being acknowledged.¡±
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