Rhode Island Injury Lawyer Blog

Articles Posted in foodborne illness

I read this tragic story this morning out of Alabama.  A young boy was shopping with his mother at a Publix supermarket and asked for a cookie in the bakery section.  The boy suffers from a very serious allergy to tree nuts of all kinds.  As many as two percent of all children today suffer from this allergy which can range in severity from mere annoyance to fatal. Unfortunately, for this young man, he had a fatal allergy.  The family has brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the supermarket.

The cookies in the market were not marked as containing nuts of any kind.  Aware of the seriousness of her sons allergy, the victims mother specifically asked the girl at the counter if there were any nuts in the cookie.  She was told “no.”  The boys mother even tried the cookie herself first but did not notice any nuts in the ingredients.  Horribly, after just 2-3 bites the boy knew something was wrong because his mouth was on fire.  Despite the use of benadryl and an epi-pen, the boy still passed away on route to the hospital.

This story is all the more tragic because it was absolutely unnecessary.  With great credit to the boys parents they claim that this lawsuit is not about money but about awareness.  Even though the country is pretty aware of the existence of peanut allergies and many schools now forbid nuts of any kind, there remains far too much ignorance on the subject.  It is, as it was here, literally a matter of life and death.  Supplying an allergic boy with a cookie containing (even trace amounts of) nuts is the equivalent of handing any one else a cookie containing cyanide.  Hopefully this lawsuit can have their desired effect of informing the public just how important it is to be aware of the presence of nut allergens.

Based on the facts of this case as I am aware, it seems clear that Publix should be held responsible for the boys death.  Not only because there was a failure to warn of the presence of nuts but because their employee was specifically asked about the presence of nuts and wrongfully claimed there were none.

A California lawsuit alleges that nearly a hundred wines from a dozen or more producers contain enormous amounts of arsenic much higher than the legally permissible limits.  Its tough to avoid this story that seems to be everywhere and as a self appointed amateur wine connoisseur, I have to admit to finding the story fascinating.  The Plaintiffs allege that independent testing reveals arsenic levels as high as 500x what is considered safe (kind of scary that number is not 0).  Of course, the wine institute believes the lawsuit is nonsense and that all of the listed wines are safe to drink.  To be fair, the plaintiffs were not killed as a result of drinking this wine, they are simply appalled at the results of independent testing.

It began with an independent test in Denver.  They sought to review approximately 1300 bottles of the most common wines on the marketplace.  In fact, these 1300 bottles represented 75% of all wine drank in the US.  Of course, since we are talking about commonplace and high volume wines, many of those tested were cheap and inexpensive bottled (or boxed) wine.  Shockingly, 83 of the bottles tested revealed excessive arsenic levels.  Those 83 bottles are:

  • Acronym’s GR8RW Red Blend 2011
  • Almaden’s Heritage White Zinfandel
  • Almaden’s Heritage Moscato
  • Almaden’s Heritage White Zinfandel
  • Almaden’s Heritage Chardonnay
  • Almaden’s Mountain Burgundy
  • Almaden’s Mountain Rhine
  • Almaden’s Mountain Chablis
  • Arrow Creek’s Coastal Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
  • Bandit’s Pinot Grigio
  • Bandit’s Chardonnay
  • Bandit’s Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Bay Bridge’s Chardonnay
  • Beringer’s White Merlot 2011
  • Beringer’s White Zinfandel 2011
  • Beringer’s Red Moscato
  • Beringer’s Refreshingly Sweet Moscato
  • Charles Shaw White Zinfandel 2012
  • Colores del Sol’s Malbec 2010
  • Glen Ellen by Concannon’s Glen Ellen Reserve Pinot Grigio 2012
  • Concannon’s Selected Vineyards Pinot Noir 2011
  • Glen Ellen by Concannon’s Glen Ellen Reserve Merlot 2010
  • Cook’s Spumante
  • Corbett Canyon’s Pinot Grigio
  • Corbett Canyon’s Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cupcake’s Malbec 2011
  • Fetzer’s Moscato 2010
  • Fetzer’s Pinot Grigio 2011
  • Fish Eye Pinot Grigio 2012
  • Flipflop’s Pinot Grigio 2012
  • Flipflop’s Moscato
  • Flipflop’s Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Foxhorn’s White Zinfandel
  • Franzia’s Vintner Select White Grenache
  • Franzia’s Vintner Select White Zinfandel
  • Franzia’s Vintner Select White Merlot
  • Franzia’s Vintner Select Burgundy
  • Hawkstone’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
  • HRM Rex Goliath’s Moscato
  • Korbel’s Sweet Rose Sparkling Wine
  • Korbel’s Extra Dry Sparkling Wine
  • Menage a Trois’ Pinot Grigio 2011
  • Menage a Trois’ Moscato 2010
  • Menage a Trois’ White Blend 2011
  • Menage a Trois’ Chardonnay 2011
  • Menage a Trois’ Rose 2011
  • Menage a Trois’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
  • Menage a Trois’ California Red Wine 2011
  • Mogen David’s Concord
  • Mogen David’s Blackberry Wine
  • Oak Leaf’s White Zinfandel
  • Pomelo’s Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  • R Collection by Raymond’s Chardonnay 2012
  • Richards Wild Irish Rose’s Red Wine
  • Seaglass Sauvignon Blanc 2012
  • Simply Naked’s Moscato 2011
  • Smoking Loon’s Viognier 2011
  • Sutter Home’s Sauvignon Blanc 2010
  • Sutter Home’s Gewurztraminer 2011
  • Sutter Home’s Pink Moscato
  • Sutter Home’s Pinot Grigio 2011
  • Sutter Home’s Moscato
  • Sutter Home’s Chenin Blanc 2011
  • Sutter Home’s Sweet Red 2010
  • Sutter Home’s Riesling 2011
  • Sutter Home’s White Merlot 2011
  • Sutter Home’s Merlot 2011
  • Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel 2011
  • Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel 2012
  • Sutter Home’s Zinfandel 2010
  • Trapiche’s Malbec 2012
  • Tribuno’s Sweet Vermouth
  • Vendange’s Merlot
  • Vendange’s White Zinfandel
  • Wine Cube’s Moscato
  • Wine Cube’s Pink Moscato 2011
  • Wine Cube’s Pinot Grigio 2011
  • Wine Cube’s Pinot Grigio
  • Wine Cube’s Chardonnay 2011
  • Wine Cube’s Chardonnay
  • Wine Cube’s Red Sangria
  • Wine Cube’s Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  • Wine Cube’s Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2011

As unsettling as it might be to find out there is an “acceptable amount of arsenic” is that the government does not regulate or restrict the amount of arsenic that is allowable in wine.  Long term exposure to higher than normal levels of arsenic can result in a multitude of illnesses or physical ailments.  I believe this is an example, much like with pharmaceuticals or the food industry, where the civil justice community is doing the job we hope that the FDA is doing.  Since wine is unregulated, cheap wine producers cut costs that result in higher than safe arsenic levels.  It is only plaintiffs lawyers and the civil court system which fights back against such dangers.

Stay safe everyone and I hope your favorite wine did not appear on this list.  Nevertheless, this should be an interesting case to watch unfold.

 

 

On July 22, Cargill voluntarily recalled 30,000 pounds of ground beef products. Now the CDC is reporting that at least 33 people have been sickened with salmonella linked to the Cargill ground beef. At least one of these persons is reported to be here in Rhode Island and several more in Massachusetts. It appears that these products were sold in Hannaford supermarkets throughout New England. It is highly likely that additional cases will be reported increasing this number well above 33 cases of food poisoning. The product has been recalled and the sell by date has passed so there should be no danger of buying the affected product any longer. Consumers, however, are instructed to look at products they placed in the freezer. If the establishment number Est. 9400 is in the USDA mark of inspection, you may want to dispose of the meat for possible contamination.

These victims of food poisoning range in age, remarkably, from 6 to 101! Food poisoning is particular hard on children and the elderly who have weaker immune systems. Of the 33 victims already reported, 11 have required some period of hospitalization. Thankfully no deaths have linked to this recent salmonella outbreak.

Food poisoning cases are largely product liability cases and require thorough and aggressive investigation. It is imperative that you speak with an experienced food poisoning attorney right away if you or a family member has been diagnosed with salmonella or other food borne illness. Attorney Joseph Lamy has recently handled many cases of food poisoning from high profile Rhode Island cases including the DeFusco’s Bakery outbreak and a half dozen victims of the Uncle Sushi outbreak.

My office has represented many victims of food poisoning, or foodborne illness, including victims of some high profile Rhode Island food poisoning cases. I have helped victims of the DeFusco’s Bakery salmonella outbreak as well as six (6) victims of the norovirus outbreak that led to the Rhode Island Department of Health temporarily closing Uncle Sushi restaurant. Outside of high profile cases like this, food poisoning occurs much more often than people may think and it can range in seriousness from a relatively minor 24 hour stomach bug all the way to death. The Center for Disease Control suggests there are as many as 76 million cases of food poisoning each year of which 300,000 people seek medical treatment and 5,000 people die. Some of the most common pathogens that result in food poisoning are bacterias such as : Salmonella, E. Coli, Clostridium Perfringens, Shigella, Listeria, and more.

There are several theories of liability available in a foodborne illness case. Essentially, food poisoning lawsuits are product liability cases. The argument is that the product released from the manufacturer was in a dangerous and defective condition when it left the hands of the producer and remained in that dangerous condition when it was received by the consumer. We then have to show that the consumer used the product in the manner it was anticipated (this obviously refers to eating the product in food poisoning cases) and that the product caused the food poisoning and associated injuries.

You can also proceed with a food poisoning case under the more common theory of negligence. As in any other case of negligence, with a food poisoning case, the plaintiff looks to prove that the defendant owed the consumer a duty of care and that through its negligent actions breached that duty of care resulting in ultimate harm to the consumer. For example, a restaurant buys eggs that are not tainted with bacteria and are safe to consume. They leave the eggs outside of a refrigerator, however, for several days and then use the eggs in the preparation of a dish. Because of their negligence in not properly handling the eggs, they have grown salmonella which was transferred to the consumer while eating the prepared dish. By ignoring all state law and well known food safety handling guidelines, the restaurant committed an act of negligence and would be liable.

There are a number of serious complications in winning a food poisoning case. The primary difficulty comes in determining what food led to the illness. Humans eat 3-4 times a day and foodborne illness can sometimes take 24 hours to show symptoms. Looking back on your day it may be difficult to identify what food was the direct cause of the poisoning. Furthermore, even if you know what food caused the illness, it remains the plaintiff’s burden to show that the specific food was contaminated and led to the illness.

In some cases, the Rhode Island Department of Health will receive several complaints about a particular food or food source and will begin an investigation which can aid in proving that the food was contaminated. In more difficult cases, your food poisoning attorney may order independent laboratory testing of the suspect food. Of course, this requires that you still possess an uneaten sample of the food. Finally, if there is no direct evidence to link the food with the sickness, your food poisoning attorney may file a lawsuit against the food producer or manufacturer to try and obtain its history of similar complaints. If the defendant has a poor record of food handling and safety, it will help build your case against the defendant.

Based on the above problems, you can see that it is imperative that you call a foodborne illness attorney right away if you sense that you were the victim of food poisoning. Time is absolutely critical in these types of cases. If you feel that you are the victim of food poisoning, try to retain or preserve some of the suspect food (if possible), keep any and all receipts showing that you purchased the suspect food and contact your doctor and/or the Rhode Island Department of Health right away.

It is being reported by the Providence Journal, that Uncle Sushi in Cranston has been closed for numerous health code violations. This one came as a surprise to me, especially since I have eaten take-out from Uncle Sushi before. And after hearing the description of the violations, I am honestly, nauseated!

The Health Department inspected the restaurant after receiving notice that at least 8 people who ate at Uncle Sushi on May 19 became ill with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and other abdominal discomfort. This food poisoning was likely caused by norovirus, according to the Health Department. The Health Department found numerous health and safety violations including:

  • Mouse droppings in the flour and on noodles;
  • Children’s Diapers and toys were found in the kitchen;
  • Vinegar stored in a container previously used for laundry detergent!;
  • Improperly stored and cooked rice;
  • Numerous other sanitary violations.

The violations are particularly shocking because sushi (a raw food) is dangerous to begin with and sushi restaurants must adhere to the strictest safety guidelines. This failure to adhere to even basic common food standards has created an obvious health hazard leading to the illness of at least 8 people.

This outbreak of food poisoning in Cranston follows the well known salmonella outbreak from DeFusco’s bakery in Cranston, which is now in bankruptcy proceedings. It is worth noting that the Health Department is severely understaffed which allows such obvious violations to occur. Rhode Island has only 7 (SEVEN!!!) health inspectors for the over 8000 eating establishments in the State. Shocking!

UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who has called with questions about this case. Our firm is currently representing several people sickened by Uncle Sushi’s health code violations. If you or a family member suffered food poisoning after eating at Uncle Sushi in recent weeks, contact our office right away.

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Like a good percentage of Rhode Islanders, I celebrated St. Joseph’s day with my family and zeppole. Unfortunately, the Providence Journal is reporting that the holiday tradition caused at least 23 Rhode Islanders to become ill with salmonella. Of those 23 at least 13 required hospitilization for the illness and several remain hospitalized.

The dangerous pastries were from DeFusco’s Bakery in Johnston which has since been closed following a Rhode Island State health inspection showed that the cream was kept in unsafe or unsanitary conditions which may have led to the salmonella outbreak. DeFusco’s products are also sold and distributed in several other bakeries including Crugnale, Calvitto’s, and Sal’s Bakeries.

Salmonella is a foodborne illness that can begin to show symptoms a few days after infection. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dehydration and diarrhea, among others. An infection, if untreated, can be extremely dangerous and anyone who feels they may have been infected should contact a doctor immediately and the Rhode Island Department of Health.

Anyone injured by this foodborne illness, or another, is entitled to personal injury benefits, including medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. If you or a family member has been sickened or hospitalized because of this outbreak of salmonella, contact Attorney Joseph Lamy right away to protect your rights.

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Two things that happened this week give rise to this post about food poisoning and food allergy cases.

  1. The class action lawsuit filed against Taco Bell alleging that their “ground beef” is actually only 35% beef and 65% filler (there is no allegation that they have recently poisoned anyone, I just find the headline revolting!);
  2. I had an inquiry this week from a person who was injured after eating a food they were allergic to in a buffet.

Food safety is a major issue these days. Pressure to reduce prices has resulted in increased cases of food recalls, foodborne illnesses, and an overall reduction in quality. The Center for Disease Control estimates as many as 76 Million cases of foodborne illness occur in the US each year!!! Many of these cases are mild, but 300,000 or more are hospitalized and 5,000 people die each year as a result of food poisoning.

Food poisoning occurs when food contaminated with bacteria such as Salmonella, E. Coli, or Listeria, among others, is ingested. Symptoms can include nausea, abdominal pain, headache, vomiting, dehydration, fever, etc. As previously indicated, the most serious cases can result in prolonged hospital stays or even death.

What is the difference with food allergy claims?

Food allergy lawsuits do occur, but it is not as simple as being sickened by a food product. Even a harmless, bacteria-free, peanut can be deadly to someone with a nut allergy. Planters would not be liable for the damages caused to a person with a nut allergy unless the peanuts contained some form of bacteria.

However, if you are dining in a restaurant and inform your waiter or cook of a food allergy, and they serve you that item without your knowledge causing sickness, then you have grounds for a claim.

As with any personal injury claim, if you are injured due to food poisoning you are entitled to have your medical bills and lost wages paid as well as pain and suffering. Contact my office for a free consultation.

While no one has reported illness yet, the H.P. Hood Company is recalling two (2) Heluva Good Cheese products, which were sold and distributed in Rhode Island, due to possible bacterial contamination. The products in question are the eight ounce packages of the company’s Port Wine Cold Pack Cheese Food with a sell-by date of 11/15/2010 through 12/15/2010, and the Sharp Cheddar Cold Pack Cheese Food with a sell-by date of 11/15/2010 and 12/15/2010.

The voluntary recall is the result of product sampling performed by the State of Wisconsin in the facility that produces the Heluva Good Cheese products. This sampling raised concerns over the possible contamination with a bacteria that can lead to listeriosis.

Listeriosis is a relatively rare bacterial infection that is most common in newborns, pregnant women, or those with a compromised immune system. In fact, pregnant women can account for nearly 30% of all reported cases. Premature birth, still birth and miscarriage are potential serious complications of the illness.

Symptoms of listeriosis can last for up to ten days and include fever and muscle aches. In more serious cases, listeriosis can lead to meningitis.

Foodborne illness is a very serious problem in America. Each year nearly 325,000 people are hospitalized with food poisoning. Of those, nearly 5000 people die each year. Minor cases of foodborne illness are estimated to be in the tens of millions each year.

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Kilwin’s Quality Confections is recalling all seven ounce packages of chocolate covered peanuts and all bulk chocolate covered peanuts sold in its stores before April 1 because of possible salmonella contamination.  Salmonella can cause serious infections and even death, particularly in children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

No illnesses have been reported to date.  Kilwin’s is a Michigan candy retailer with stores in several States.  The Rhode Island franchise is located in Newport.  If you or a loved one has been injured because of this product, contact our office for a free consultation.

The Editor of Forbes Magazine, William Baldwin, has suggested that plaintiff lawyers help protect the quality of the Nation’s food supply by bringing suits against companies who have slipped under the FDA radar.  As he points out, food-borne illness sickens 76 million Americans per year, kills 5,000, and runs up $3 Billion in medical bills.

These statistics, coupled with numerous salmonella scares and constant questions about the quality of food products brought in from China, shows that the FDA is clearly overwhelmed and unable to protect our country from dangerous food products.  A few high profile lawsuits with punitive damage awards, may be able to do what the FDA cannot. 

As Mr. Baldwin points out, “genetic subtyping can make an unmistakable link from food to victim.”  Such certainty prevents frivilous lawsuits and eliminates doubt in the minds of victims who may or may not have been sickened by the food they ate.

Food-borne illness can range from mild stomach pain to death.  If you feel that you or a loved one has been the victim of food poisoning, contact our office for a free consultation.