Header graphic for print
Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Bill Marler Calls on Del Monte to Pay Medical Expenses for Victims

Public health officials have identified cantaloupes sold by Del Monte Fresh Produce as the likely cause of a recent Salmonella Panama outbreak that has sickened at least 12 people in 7 western states. The Gables, Florida based company recently recalled nearly 60,000 cantaloupes after learning of the product’s link to the Salmonella outbreak.

“The food industry has a responsibility to produce and sell only food free of contaminants or pathogens; no exceptions”

The cantaloupes were distributed in warehouse clubs in Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. They were sold in bulk with 3 cantaloupes in one plastic sleeve with a plastic orange handle, the Del Monte logo, and the words “3 Count, Product of Guatemala”.

“The food industry has a responsibility to produce and sell only food free of contaminants or pathogens; no exceptions,” said Bill Marler, Managing Partner of Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm. “It seems clear in this instance that Del Monte has failed to protect the customer and it is only right that the company pay for the medical costs incurred by those sickened from its products.”

This outbreak marks the twelfth documented cantaloupe-based Salmonella outbreak in the United States since 1990, with nearly 950 reported illnesses.

In Del Monte’s case this is the third recall it has issued in less than two years. In late 2009 the California State Department of Public Health warned consumers not to eat Del Monte cantaloupe due to Salmonella and the company recalled 1,120 cartons of its product. Then in 2010, Michigan Department of Agriculture testing detected the presence of Salmonella on Del Monte cantaloupe resulting in the recall of 81 cartons of cantaloupe.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can begin 6-72 hours after ingestion and include abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration. If you believe you may have a Salmonella infection consult a healthcare professional immediately. To learn more about Salmonella, visit www.about-salmonella.com.

  • Sam

    “testing detected the presence of Salmonella on Del Monte cantaloupe”, indicating the organism was found on the exterior of the melon. Was testing done on the pulp; was there any salmonella detected inside the melons? I assume that there was salmonella in the pulp, since most people don’t eat the rind…

  • Bill,
    According to you, “The food industry has a responsibility to produce and sell only food free of contaminants or pathogens; no exceptions”
    Really? Please document your claim. Or is that only your opinion?
    And, as Marler Clark can afford to give away hundreds of thousands of dollars, how about if you and your associates start a farm and show the rest of us how “to produce and sell only food free of contaminants or pathogens.”
    Until you demonstrate year in and year out how to do that at a fair price WHILE grossing enough to pay a far wage to all employees, pay the average purchase price of land in the area and earn a modest return on the investment, then my response to you is to quote a recent response of yours, “BULLSHIT.”
    BTW, wouldn’t it be something if lawyers were held to an analogously high standard of performance?

  • John

    Sam, if the bacteria is on the outside, then it can be transfered to the edible portion by the knife as it cuts through each slice…
    Harry, I agree with the jist of what you’re saying. These microbes are EVERYWHERE in the environment; It is simply not possible to avoid them 100% of the time. As long as GAPs and GMPs are properly followed, why should the grower or packer or shipper be responsible for something that is a part of the natural flora of the entire planet?

  • WF

    @Sam: Salmonella likely wasn’t inside the melons, unless they were cracked. But, even though the Salmonella wasn’t inside, you can still get sick.
    Think about what happens with melons … I’ve seen them sliced and in salad bars, with the rind still attached, stacked on top of each other. That means the rind from one slice is in contact with the exposed flesh of another slice above it.
    Try to imagine how difficult it would be to slice a melon at home without cross-contaminating organisms from the rind to the flesh. As soon as that rind touches your cutting board, now you’ve got a contaminated surface. So it becomes very easy to transfer bacteria from the rind, to a surface like a cutting board, and then to the flesh.

  • Sam

    WF – thank you!
    As a food industry professional, I agree (and it is law) that it is our responsibility to produce food that doesn’t kill. The technology exists to ensure that melons can be grown and harvested without harmful bacteria. There are also inexpensive methods to test for the presence of bacteria. My bet is that Del Monte was doing little, if any, microbiological testing prior to shipping their melons. If they had been testing (using a statistically sound sampling plan) they could have avoided this costly situation. At the end of the day, if it can be proven that harmful bacteria were present in a food product, then there is no question about liability. The producer is going to pay, hopefully before somebody’s daughter pays with her life. If you don’t like it, and can’t get used to it, there are many other countries which will accomodate your desires!

  • RCW

    This is an epi case. Salmonella has not been found on the melons. Issues is about 7 weeks old stemming from cases that purchased melons from 1-20-11 up to 2-17-11.