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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

First Lawsuit Filed over ConAgra Pot Pie Salmonella Outbreak

Amy and Joshua Reinert took their daughter Isabelle to the emergency room in August when she had a seizure and lost consciousness. Reinert said her daughter continued to have diarrhea for nearly six weeks. It’s the first federal lawsuit stemming this week’s announcement to pull ConAgra’s Banquet and generic pot pies from the shelves due to a potential salmonella contamination.  Remember this outbreak began in January of 2007.  Also, notice that there are no ill people in Nebraska, home state of ConAgra.  What gives?

Salmonella count increases to 174 in 32 states

Between January 1, 2007 and October 12, 2007, at least 174 isolates of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- with an indistinguishable genetic fingerprint have been collected from ill persons in 32 states. Ill persons whose Salmonella strain has this genetic fingerprint have been reported from Arizona (1), Arkansas (3), California (6), Connecticut (3), Delaware (5), Georgia (2), Idaho (7), Illinois (5), Indiana (3), Kansas (2), Kentucky (8), Massachusetts (6), Maryland (5), Maine (1), Michigan (3), Minnesota (6), Missouri (13), Montana (4), Nevada (6), New York (8), Ohio (8), Oklahoma (1), Oregon (3), Pennsylvania (14), Tennessee (5), Texas (4), Utah (2), Virginia (6), Vermont (2), Washington (8), Wisconsin (21), Wyoming (3). Their ages range from <1 to 87 years with a median age of 20 years; 52% of ill persons are female. At least 33 people have been hospitalized.

When is a recall not a recall?  When it is not a recall. 

Although the lawsuit is filed and we can begin to determine how this could have happened, how the recall was handled is also still at issue.

Kirsti Marohn, of the St. Cloud Times:  ConAgra Foods recalls all pot pies

A recall on frozen pot pies was expanded Friday to include all varieties produced by ConAgra Foods. Health officials are warning consumers to check their freezers for the products that could be contaminated with salmonella. While an earlier advisory focused on certain types of Banquet brand pot pies, the new voluntary recall includes Albertson’s, Food Lion, Great Value, Hill Country Fare, Kirkwood, Kroger, Meijer and Western Family branded products. Consumers who purchased the products days or weeks ago might still have some in their freezer. And whether they hear of the recall before they unknowingly eat them largely depends on a notification system that one attorney says isn’t always effective.

Bill Marler, a Seattle-based lawyer who is representing Amy and Joshua Reinert of Sauk Rapids in their lawsuit against ConAgra, says the company should have recalled the products sooner. And he said some stores didn’t remove the pot pies from their shelves right away.

“The store has a better reason to know that there’s a possibility of a problem with a product than a consumer does,” Marler said. “They’re really in a better position to protect their customers than the customers themselves.”

Josh Funk, Omaha Associated Press Writer – Critics: ConAgra Mishandled Pot Pie Recall

ConAgra Foods Inc. shouldn’t have waited two days to recall its Banquet and generic pot pies after they were linked to nationwide salmonella outbreak.

Food poisoning lawyer Bill Marler said those mixed messages, and the lack of a recall for two days, may have helped make it possible for the pot pies to linger on store shelves “Without a recall, the stuff was still on the shelves and being sold,” Marler said.

If anyone bought ConAgra’s pot pies this week after the company knew about the link to the salmonella outbreak, Marler said the company could face punitive damages in a lawsuit because the product wasn’t immediately recalled. Marler, of Seattle-based law firm Marler Clark, handles many food-borne illness cases, and his firm has already filed one against ConAgra because of the pot pie outbreak.

Andy Martin of the New York Times wrote a great story today entitled: Did Your Microwave Nuke the Bacteria? He interviewed the mother of my client.