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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

UPDATE – Malt-O-Meal Salmonella Agona Cereal Linked to Maine, Minnesota and other State Illnesses

Maine and Minnesota have identified cases of infection with Salmonella Agona.  At least 11 other states report as many as 20 other illnesses.  The onset of illness dates range from January 22 to March 19. Two of the individuals were hospitalized.  All three reported consumption of unsweetened puffed rice or wheat cereals, but at present it is unknown if the products consumed were part of the current recall. Additional cases of illness in other states are being investigated by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On April 5, 2008 the Malt-O-Meal Company of Minnesota announced a recall of unsweetened puffed rice and unsweetened puffed wheat cereal. In addition to Malt-O-Meal’s own brand, these cereals are sold under multiple labels, including the store brands for Hannaford and Shaw’s Supermarkets. The other brands being recalled are Acme, America’s Choice, Food Club, Giant, Jewel, Laura Lynn, Pathmark, ShopRite, Tops, and Weis Quality. The products recalled include “Best if used by” codes between April 8, 2008 (APR0808) and March 18, 2009 (MAR1809).

1998 Malt-O-Meal Salmonella Agona Litigation – Multistate

In 1998, Malt-O-Meal on recalled as much as 3 million pounds of its plain toasted oat cereal after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that it was the likely source of Salmonella food poisoning. At least 17 Washington state children became ill with Salmonella Agona infections, and litigation resulted.

We learned this morning at the Seattle University School of Law Food Safety Seminar that not only is this 2008 outbreak caused by Salmonella Agona – the same serotype in the 1998 outbreak, but also the same PFGE pattern.

Salmonella is one of the most common enteric (intestinal) infections in the United States. Salmonellosis (the disease caused by Salmonella) is the second most common form of bacterial foodborne illness after Campylobacter infection. It is estimated that 1.4 million cases of salmonellosis occur each year in the U.S.; 95% of those cases are foodborne-related. Approximately 220 of each 1000 cases result in hospitalization and eight of every 1000 cases result in death. About 500 to 1,000 or 31% of all food-related deaths are caused by Salmonella infections each year. Salmonellosis is more common in the warmer months of the year.