Dinesh Ramde of Minneapolis Associated Press reported in "Man sues ConAgra over pot pie tainted with salmonella," on our client Eric J. Mand of Malone of Fond du Lac County who bought a ConAgra Banquet pot pie in mid-September. A few days after eating one, he became so sick with severe gastrointestinal symptoms that he required hospital care on two separate days. Today we filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin a lawsuit on his behalf. I am on my way to Salt Lake City to mediate Dole Spinach E. coli cases, so one of my crack associates stepped into the media void:

"Foodborne illness is sometimes passed off as a mild stomachache but I assure you, if you talk to a victim like Eric, this is certainly not something you would ever want to go through," said Drew Falkenstein of the law firm Marler Clark. "This is not a flu virus."

Mr. Ramde also reported that my firm, “Marler Clark, based in Seattle, has filed six other lawsuits against ConAgra in connection with the pot pie recall. The others were filed on behalf of residents of Michigan, Minnesota and Nebraska, as well as three in Washington.”  We have been retained by 20 others.  According to the CDC, at least 272 isolates of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- with an indistinguishable genetic fingerprint have been collected from ill persons in 35 states. Ill persons whose Salmonella strain has this genetic fingerprint have been reported from Arizona (1 person), Arkansas (4), California (18), Colorado (9), Connecticut (7), Delaware (5), Florida (2), Georgia (2), Idaho (11), Illinois (7), Indiana (3), Iowa (1), Kansas (4), Kentucky (9), Massachusetts (7), Maryland (7), Maine (2), Michigan (3), Minnesota (7), Missouri (18), Montana (6), Nevada (6), New York (10), North Carolina (2), Ohio (11), Oklahoma (1), Oregon (4), Pennsylvania (18), Tennessee (6), Texas (4), Utah (12), Virginia (9), Vermont (2), Washington (27), Wisconsin (24), Wyoming (3).


Josh Funk once again reports on how our government, despite finding errors at industrial food facilities, does not feel the necessity to inform the public of its findings. This despite pot pies having been linked to at least 272 cases of salmonella (65 hospitalized) in 35 states. Mr. Funk’s story follows:

USDA inspectors found flaws in the safety plan ConAgra Foods Inc. used at the Missouri plant where it makes the Banquet and private label pot pies that were linked to a salmonella outbreak… A spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said Thursday that ConAgra took action to correct the problems inspectors found after the Oct. 11 recall, so the government did not have a problem with the company’s plan to resume production… USDA spokeswoman Amanda Eamich said details of the inspectors’ findings at the plant would be released only through a formal Freedom Of Information Act request.

Eamich would say only that there was a record-keeping problem and an issue with ConAgra’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plan that spells out what the company does to ensure its products are safe.


CNN Money reported this afternoon that food maker giant, ConAgra Foods (NYSE:CAG) Inc., said that it has resumed producing Banquet and private label pot pies a month after they were recalled after being linked to salmonella illnesses. The pot pies made by ConAgra have been linked to at least 272 cases of salmonella in 35 states. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at least 65 people were hospitalized as part of the outbreak.

Conagra said shipments to retail customers are expected to begin in December and consumers can expect to see the pies in retail stores by January (I can not wait). The company belatedly recalled all pies produced at its Marshall, Missouri plant (which we have a Court Order to enter) October 11 after the products were linked to cases of salmonella. ConAgra faces several lawsuits (actually, five) related to the recall, which was the second ConAgra recall this year due to salmonella (remember Peter Pan). ConAgra said it expects the pot pie recall to cost about $30 million, or 4 cents per share.

Hmmm, I bet ConAgra wishes it would have spent that money on upgrades of the plants instead of potential settlements on behalf of injured people.  I also spoke with Joe Ruff of the Omaha World Herald about ConAgra resuming production and the lawsuit we filed against it in its home state:

ConAgra’s menu again has pot pies

Full Article Below:

Continue Reading ConAgra Foods resumes making Banquet pot pies – spends $30 million on recall

Leaving ConAgra no room to deny the obvious, according to the CDC, at least 272 isolates of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- with an indistinguishable genetic fingerprint have been collected from ill persons in 35 states. To date, three of these patients’ pot pies have yielded Salmonella I4,[5],12:i:- isolates with a genetic fingerprint indistinguishable from the outbreak pattern. I guess that is more than a “smoking gun,” but a smoking pot pie.

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12–72 hours after infection. Infection is usually diagnosed by culture of a stool sample. The illness usually lasts 4 – 7 days. Although most people recover without treatment, severe infections may occur. Infants, elderly persons, and people with impaired immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness. In severe infection, Salmonella spreads from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other body sites, and death can occur if the person is not treated promptly with antibiotics.

To date we have been contacted by over 100 people who believe they have become ill as a result of eating ConAgra Banquet Pot Pies.  Of those thus far we have been able to confirm nearly 20 as suffering from a Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- infection.  Three lawsuits have been filed to date.

When they are mixed together at ConAgra?* (hopefully, people recall the TV ads of a few years ago – "you have chocolate in my peanut butter.")



UPDATE
– Between January 1, 2007 and October 29, 2007, at least 272 isolates of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- with an indistinguishable genetic fingerprint have been collected from ill persons in 35 states.  Illnesses began January 2007 and have continued through at least October 2007.

Investigation of Outbreak of Human Infections Caused by Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:-

Ill persons whose Salmonella strain has this genetic fingerprint have been reported from Arizona (1 person), Arkansas (4), California (16), Colorado (7), Connecticut (6), Delaware (5), Florida (2), Georgia (2), Idaho (8), Illinois (6), Indiana (3), Kansas (3), Kentucky (8), Massachusetts (6), Maryland (7), Maine (1), Michigan (3), Minnesota (7), Missouri (16), Montana (4), Nevada (6), New York (10), Ohio (10), Oklahoma (1), Oregon (3), Pennsylvania (17), Tennessee (6), Texas (4), Utah (12), Virginia (9), Vermont (2), Washington (17), Wisconsin (23), Wyoming (3). Their ages range from <1 to 87 years with a median age of 20 years; 51% of ill persons are female. At least 50 people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.  State health departments are collecting and testing pot pie products recovered from patients’ homes. To date, one pot pie yielded Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- isolates with a genetic fingerprint indistinguishable from the outbreak pattern.

So far, the CDC has reported that the other ConAgra Salmonella outbreak has held fast at 628 cases in 47 States.

Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Serotype Tennessee Infections Associated with Peanut Butter — United States, 2006–2007

In November 2006, public health officials at CDC and state health departments detected a substantial increase in the reported incidence of isolates of Salmonella serotype Tennessee. In a multistate case-control study conducted during February 5–13, 2007, illness was strongly associated with consumption of either of two brands (Peter Pan or Great Value) of peanut butter produced at the same plant. Based on these findings, the plant ceased production and recalled both products on February 14, 2007. The outbreak strain of Salmonella Tennessee subsequently was isolated from several opened and unopened jars of Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter and from two environmental samples obtained from the plant. As of May 22, 2007, a total of 628 persons infected with an outbreak strain of Salmonella serotype Tennessee had been reported from 47 states since August 1, 2006. on February 13, 2007.  Subsequent laboratory testing of leftover peanut butter from patients was performed at state public health laboratories and CDC. Salmonella Tennessee with a PFGE pattern matching one of the outbreak strains was isolated from 21 opened and unopened peanut butter jars with production dates ranging from July 2006 to December 2006.


I am not an owner or stockholder of ConAgra (yet, anyways).  However, if I was, here are a few questions I would ask:

1.  What the hell is going on with food safety and quality assurance?

2.  Why to date have no Salmonella culture positive cases from either outbreak been settled despite spending millions of dollars on legal defense fees?

One other thing, it is clear that the numbers the CDC cites as cases related to Pot Pies (238) and to Peanut Butter (628) are gross undercounts.  According to AC Voetsch, “FoodNet estimate of the burden of illness caused by nontyphoidal Salmonella infections in the United States,”Clinical Infectious Diseases 2004;38 (Suppl 3):S127-34.  The real numbers are some 38.6 times higher, or 9,187 ill in Pot Pies and 24,241 ill in Peanut Butter.

*  I am not implying that Reese’s Peanut Butter has anything to do with ConAgra’s mess.

We filed two lawsuits today – one against Cargill on behalf of a Minnesota boy who became ill after eating an E. coli-contaminated hamburger and another on behalf of a Michigan man who became ill after eating a Salmonella-contaminated turkey pot pie.

In the Minnesota case:

According to the complaint, Scott Reber ate a hamburger made from a Cargill ground beef patty on September 22. By September 25, Scott had developed a gastrointestinal illness with symptoms typical of E. coli infection, and was hospitalized on September 28. While he was hospitalized, Scott’s parents learned that a stool specimen submitted for testing had tested positive for E. coli O157:H7.

Elk River family sues Cargill for E. coli

An Elk River family filed the second E. coli lawsuit against Cargill.  Elk River residents John and Barb Reber’s son Scott, 7, became ill with E. coli after eating a hamburger made from a Cargill ground beef patty.  According to the complaint, Scott ate a hamburger on Sept. 22 and by Sept. 25 had developed a gastrointestinal illness with symptoms typical of E. coli. He was hospitalized on Sept. 28.
And in the Michigan case:

According to the lawsuit, David Small ate a Banquet brand turkey pot pie on Saturday, September 24, 2007 and became ill with symptoms of Salmonella infection the following day. Mr. Small’s symptoms worsened over the next days, and he sought medical attention at Munson Medical Center on September 27, 2007. He was admitted and remained hospitalized until September 29. Mr. Small later learned that his stool specimen had tested positive for Salmonella serotype I 4,[5],12:i:-, the strain associated with the Banquet pot pie outbreak.

TC man sues over tainted pot pie

David Small regularly ate pot pies for lunch, but a recent bout with salmonella prompted the Traverse City man to sue the company that produced the tainted pies.  Small, 51, filed a lawsuit Thursday against ConAgra Foods Inc. and Tom’s Food Markets Inc. after he said he was infected with salmonella in September.  ConAgra recalled all of its store-brand and Banquet pot pies Oct. 11 after a investigation by the Centers for Disease Control linked the tainted pies to recent salmonella outbreaks in several states.

CDC confirms Salmonella Pot Pie outbreak has been ongoing since January 2007 – a month before the Salmonella outbreak tied to ConAgra peanut butter was announced in February 2007.



Investigation of Outbreak of Human Infections Caused by Salmonella I,4,[5],12:i:-

CDC is collaborating with public health officials in multiple states across the United States and with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service to investigate an ongoing multi-state outbreak of Salmonella I,4,[5],12:i:- (pronounced “four five twelve eye minus”) infections in humans. An investigation that used interviews comparing foods eaten by ill and well persons is showing that eating Banquet brand pot pies produced by the ConAgra Foods company is the likely source of the illness.

Between January 1, 2007 and October 9, 2007, at least 152 isolates of Salmonella I,4,[5],12:i:- with an indistinguishable genetic fingerprint have been collected from ill persons in 31 states. Ill persons whose Salmonella strain has this genetic fingerprint have been reported from Arizona (1), California (6), Connecticut (3), Delaware (5), Georgia (2), Idaho (6), Illinois (3), Indiana (3), Kansas (2), Kentucky (8), Massachusetts (5), Maryland (5), Maine (1), Michigan (3), Minnesota (6), Missouri (11), Montana (4), Nevada (6), New York (6), Ohio (8), Oklahoma (1), Oregon (2), Pennsylvania (13), Tennessee (5), Texas (4), Utah (2), Virginia (6), Vermont (2), Washington (2), Wisconsin (19), Wyoming (2). Their ages range from <1 to 87 years with a median age of 20 years; 49% of ill persons are female. At least 20 people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

So, why recall peanut butter, but not pot pies?