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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

A recent Salmonella cantaloupe outbreak and a company’s bad response

On March 22, 2011 Del Monte announced the recall of 4,992 cartons of cantaloupes due to contamination with Salmonella panama. The recall followed an announcement by the FDA that “there is an epidemiologic link between the cantaloupes and approximately twelve reported cases of Salmonella panama.”  The CDC later issued an update, on March 29, raising the number of illnesses linked to Del Monte’s cantaloupe to 13 in five states, including one in Colorado. The CDC also confirmed that “the investigative efforts of state, local, and federal public health and regulatory agencies have linked this outbreak to eating cantaloupe.”

Although the link to Del Monte’s product was clear, it appears as though Del Monte was initially resistant to issue a recall, or at least to recognize the involvement of its product despite mounting evidence. Three days prior to the recall by Del Monte, an epidemiologist with the State of Oregon, Dr. William Keene, was moved to make things clear to a Dr. Thomas Young at Del Monte.  Dr. Keene opened his email by explaining that “the epidemiological evidence implicating Del Monte cantaloupe is overwhelming.” Dr. Keene later went on to point out that the odds that Del Monte cantaloupe was not the source of the thirteen connected illnesses in five states was somewhere below “one in a trillion.”

In the morning I get the opportunity to talk with PulseNet and OutbreakNet about why they should not fear a company with neither the facts nor the law on its side.

  • Shari

    Looking forward to your talk. Thanks for joining us in Atlanta this week.

  • Sam

    I don’t think anyone is afraid about “facts” or “law”; these days we fear those with deep pockets. Facts and law are merely inconveniences to the wealthy In this age of poisoned political rhetoric.

  • Margaret

    When I read this, I have the distinct impression that Del Monte acted like a bully in bringing suit against the FDA and the Oregon Public Health authorities. This looks as if they were more concerned with their image and public opinion than actually making sure the food they sell is safe and not contaminated. I have no confidence in a corporation that makes threats against those public agencies charged with making sure we don’t get sick or die from eating a piece of fruit.
    Since learning this, I have lost confidence in Del Monte as a trusted corporation which is a great pity because I want to trust my food suppliers. Del Monte is a huge name in the fruit and vegetable industry, one I used to trust, and this is a big negative in my mind.