I was honored to be in Washington DC to hear victims testify before the House subcommittee for Oversight and Investigations about the illness and death caused by tainted peanut butter. Lou Tousignant spoke about his father, who survived the Korean War with three purple hearts, only to be killed by peanut butter. Peter Hurley spoke about his 3-year-old son who became very sick with Salmonella, and the revelation that the “comfort food” their pediatrician said to allow the toddler while he was ill turned out to be the very thing that made him sick and get sicker: Austin brand peanut butter cracker sandwiches. While we were in the hearings, news came through that there may be another death attributed to the outbreak, which would bring the total to nine. The CDC released new data on illnesses, which now number 600 in 44 States. When I landed a few moments ago I learned that even more Peanut Corporation of America product is being recalled. This time from its Texas plant. All products ever shipped from the Peanut Corp. of America plant in Plainview were recalled after the Texas Department of State Health Services said it found dead rodents, rodent excrement and bird feathers in a crawl space above a production area on Wednesday.
While meetings with Congresswoman Rosa deLauro and staffers of other Representatives and Senators concerned with food safety kept me very busy, I still had time to file two more peanut butter lawsuits, bringing the total to six with about thirty more to go.
I filed first on behalf of the Kirchners, a Minnesota family whose two small children fell ill in December, 2008 after eating snack foods made with Salmonella-tainted peanut butter. Even with a sharp pediatrician who ordered stool samples and identified Salmonella poisoning in their younger child, the link to peanut butter had not been established and their older child fell ill. The pediatrician suspected Salmonella, and suggested that the worried parents take their son to Children’s hospital, where the severity of his symptoms necessitated his admission. He remained hospitalized for three days, where he was also cultured with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. Both children are still struggling to regain their health.
Next I filed on behalf of two year-old Nevada child who ate peanut butter cracker sandwiches (also in December, 2008), and fell ill. Her parents sought emergency medical care for her nausea, profuse diarrhea, and abdominal pain, but were sent home with the child and told to keep her hydrated. When her symptoms worsened they returned to the hospital, and she was admitted. During her stay, a stool sample revealed that she had been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella. After her release, she required weeks to return to health.
And unfortunately, this is far from over.