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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Salmonella Cantaloupes and E. coli Bologna – Republicans Secretly Love Lawyers

You really have to wonder about Republicans.  They always say they hate those damn ambulance chasing trial lawyers, but, short of sending flowers, defunding food safety is the best gift ever.  Cutting the budgets for the CDC, FDA and FSIS will only mean more food poisoning outbreaks, more illnesses, more lawsuits, and more money in my pocket – to give to Democrats who want to drive foodborne illness down.  Here are this weeks outbreaks:

As of March 22, 2011, 12 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Panama have been reported from Oregon (5 cases), Washington (4 cases), California (2 cases), and Maryland (1 case). Reported dates of illness onset range from February 5, 2011, to February 23, 2011. Ill persons range in age from less than 1-year-old to 68 years old, with a median age of 12 years old. Sixty-six percent are male. Among ill persons, two have been hospitalized and no deaths have been reported.

Once in 2009 and again in 2010 and again on March 22, 2011, Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. voluntarily recalled 4,992 cartons of cantaloupes, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella Panama. The cantaloupes were distributed through warehouse clubs in Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.  See, History of Salmonella Lawsuits and Litigation.

The CDC estimates that over 1 million cases occur annually in the United States, according to a 2011 report. Of these cases, approximately 20,000 result in hospitalization and 378 result in death. This means that Salmonella accounts for almost 30 percent of foodborne illness-related deaths each year.  Complication like Reactive Arthritis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome may occur.

As of March 22, 2011, 14 persons infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli serotype O157:H7 have been reported from Maryland (3 cases), New Jersey (2 cases), North Carolina (1 case), Ohio (2 cases) and Pennsylvania (6 cases). Reported dates of illness onset range from January 10, 2011 to February 15, 2011. Ill persons range in age from 1 to 70 years, with a median age of 13.5 years. Seventy-nine percent are male. Among 13 ill persons for whom information is known, 3 or 23%, reported being hospitalized, and none have reported hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure that is associated with E. coli O157:H7 infections. No deaths have been reported.

Once in 1995 and now once again, Palmyra Bologna Company, of Palmyra, PA, is recalling approximately 23,000 pounds of Lebanon bologna products that may be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7.  See, History of E. coli Lawsuits and Litigation.

The CDC estimates that there are about 75,000 E. coli cases every year.  At least 2000 Americans are hospitalized, and about 60 die as a direct result of E. coli infection and its complications.  Complication like Hemolytic Uremic SyndromeReactive Arthritis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome may occur.

Damn, even Senator Coburn said we could do away with Food Safety because we have the best lawyers in the world (or something close to that). Hmm, I wonder if I should become a Republican?

  • Sam

    Just think about how much more money you could make as a republican. No longer burdened by silly concepts like “truth”, “ethics”, or “morals” you would be free to participate in the ongoing transfer of all wealth to the richest 1%. Free from accountability to laws, regulations, and even the laws of physics, you could be one of the chosen few who tell us lies like “America is broke”, “climate change is a farce”, and “Obama is a muslim”. Tempting, eh?

  • Theresa Kentner

    I have mixed feelings about the Del Monte cantaloupe recall.
    I read the link you provided about selecting and cleaning cantaloupes and it sounds like there isn’t a known cause for the Salmonella in the melons. Shouldn’t cleaning fruits be partly the responsibility of the consumer?
    That is common sense if I could get Salmonella from my garden grown cantaloupes, too.

  • Dog Doctor

    Theresa, you are correct about washing the outside of cantaloupe but the problem is on the inside. An experiment you can try is to put a cantaloupe in a window leave all day and put a bowl of water with food coloring in your refrigator at the same time. In the afternoon, take the cantaloupe from the window and gentlely put stem scare in first into the water and leave it for an hour. Dry it off and cut into it. You will see the veins in the cantaloupe infused with the dye.
    Why is this important, water is often used ot transport produce in the processing shed. The cantaloupes are picked during the day put into large boxes. They are brought to a packing house and dumped into a wash tank and flume to the sorting area. After sorting they may be flumed or go by conveyor belt to be packed. After they are packed they boxes are stacked and an ice slurry is poured overthem to fill the boxes with ice. If at any point this water is contaminated by salmonella either by birds, or other critters in the packing house or material on the melons it can be spread to a number of others. The large volume of melons and water is typically where the contamination levels are low and sporadic. It is a matter of diluation.

  • Theresa Kentner

    Dog Doctor, that I understand, but then the safety measures recommended by the link are only a partial cure, if that. They should not be touted as the way to keep your cantaloupe safe.

  • Dog Doctor

    Theresa, the reason the outside advice is provided. It is the only thing that anyone outside the packing plant can do to reduce contamination unless you irradiate the cantoloupe. There is also evidence that the surface may be contaminated and that a knife cutting through the melom would carry salmonella into the interior.