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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Man sues Wal-Mart over salmonella

As the Indy-Star reports, Marler Clark is representing a Greenwood man in a salmonella lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores. The suit follows a salmonella outbreak this summer in which at least 84 people became ill. The Indiana State Department of Health traced the outbreak to the deli and bakery departments at the Wal-Mart on Emerson Avenue in Greenwood. The suit, filed on Thursday in Johnson County Superior Court, says the bacteria caused Noah Merritt, the son of Ryan Merritt of Greenwood, to become ill in August. Noah Merritt was briefly hospitalized because of the outbreak, the lawsuit claims. (See also: the full press release from the Indiana Department of Health that implicated Wal-Mart, below)

State health officials report the source of the recent salmonella outbreak is the Wal-Mart on 1133 North Emerson in Greenwood. The deli and bakery departments have been identified as the source of the recent salmonella outbreak in northern Johnson and southern Marion counties. Wal-Mart officials report that all employees from the deli and bakery areas have been moved to other parts of the store until the investigation is complete. They have also discarded all possibly contaminated foods, and cleaned and sanitized both departments. “We believe food handlers who didn’t have any symptoms may have contaminated the deli and bakery products,” said Lynae Granzow, enteric epidemiologist, Indiana State Department of Health.

State health officials say the salmonella contamination occurred at the store, and that the public should not be concerned with purchasing items from the deli and bakery departments in the future. Health officials do recommend that individuals who purchased ready-to-eat items at the deli and bakery areas of this Wal-Mart on or before August 25 should discard those items, or return them to the store for a refund.

“This is a rare occurrence, and we are confident that Wal-Mart has properly addressed the situation by moving the employees to another part of the store, and cleaning all the equipment and surfaces,” said Granzow. The State Department of Health was contacted on July 11 by the Marion County Health Department about an increase in salmonella cases in that area. Currently, 84 cases of salmonella have been reported to be part of the outbreak, which began in May 2006.

“We have worked closely with the Johnson and Marion county health departments to conduct an extensive investigation, which included laboratory tests and phone interviews to rule out all possible locations and methods of transmission of the salmonella,” Granzow said.

State health officials say additional cases may be identified for the next few weeks, as the investigation concludes, but expect them to eventually taper off, now that the source has been identified and addressed.

Salmonella is a bacterium found in the intestines of many animals. People often become infected by eating contaminated foods. Salmonella can be passed because people don’t wash their hands or produce properly. People can also become infected after handling chicks, ducklings, or reptiles, such as lizards, snakes, and turtles. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, cramps, nausea, and gas.

“The best way to avoid spreading salmonella is to wash hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets, and before they fix or eat food” Granzow said. “People should also thoroughly cook all foods from animal sources, especially chicken, beef, pork, and eggs.”