Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce Salmonella Outbreak Lawsuits - Multistate (2015)

On September 4, 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it was investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Poona infections. State and local public health officials began interviewing ill people to obtain information about foods they might have eaten and other exposures in the week before their illness began. In interviews, people answered questions about foods eaten and other exposures in the week before their illness began. Fifty-eight of 80 people interviewed at that time reported eating cucumbers. This proportion was significantly higher than results from a survey of healthy people in which 55% reported eating cucumbers in the month of July in the week before they were interviewed.  

Several state health and agriculture departments collected leftover cucumbers from restaurants and grocery stores where ill people reported eating or shopping to test for the presence of Salmonella. And the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency isolated Salmonella from cucumbers collected during a visit to the Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce facility. DNA fingerprinting was conducted on the samples to determine the pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern of the Salmonella isolated from these cucumbers and ultimately determined that the cucumbers were Salmonella Poona-infected cucumbers were distributed by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce.  

On September 4, Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce recalled all cucumbers sold under the “Limited Edition” brand label during the period from August 1, 2015 through September 3, 2015 because they may be contaminated with Salmonella. The type of cucumber is often referred to as a “slicer” or “American” cucumber. It is Dark green in color and typical length is 7 to 10 inches. At a minimum, Limited Edition cucumbers were distributed in the states of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah and reached customers through retail, food service companies, wholesalers, and brokers.  

The cucumbers were shipped in black, green, yellow, and craft colored carton, which reads “Limited Edition Pole Grown Cucumbers.”  Labeling on the cases of recalled cucumbers indicated that the product was grown and packed by Rancho Don Juanito in Mexico.  

On September 11, Custom Produce Sales recalled all cucumbers sold under the Fat Boy label starting August 1, 2015 because they may be contaminated with Salmonella. These cucumbers were sent to Custom Produce Sales from Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce.

On September 14, 2015, the FDA issued an updated Import Alert to include cucumbers from Rancho Don Juanito de R.L. de C.V. located in Baja, Mexico. This action was based on the identification of Salmonella in cucumbers through import sampling of the farm’s cucumbers. The FDA added cucumbers from Rancho Don Juanito de R.L. de C.V. located in Baja, Mexico to a second Import Alert on September 23, 2015, based on the appearance that cucumbers from the firm appeared to have been prepared, packed, and held under insanitary conditions.

As of November 18, 2015, 838 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Poona have been reported from 38 states. The number of ill people reported from each state is as follows: Alabama (1), Alaska (17), Arizona (129), Arkansas (13), California (232), Colorado (19), Connecticut (1), Florida (1), Hawaii (1), Idaho (24), Illinois (9), Indiana (5), Iowa (7), Kansas (2), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (5), Maryland (1), Minnesota (40), Missouri (14), Montana (16), Nebraska (8), Nevada (16), New Hampshire (1), New Mexico (32), New York (6), North Dakota (8), Ohio (3), Oklahoma (13), Oregon (22), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (10), South Dakota (3), Texas (42), Utah (58), Virginia (1), Washington (25), Wisconsin (43), and Wyoming (7).

Among people for whom information is available, illnesses started on dates ranging from July 3, 2015 to November 1, 2015. Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 99, with a median age of 18. Fifty percent of ill people are children younger than 18 years. Fifty-seven percent of ill people are female. Among 601 people with available information, 165 (27%) report being hospitalized. Four deaths have been reported from Arizona (1), California (1), Oklahoma (1), and Texas (1).

Marler Clark represented 40 individuals affected by the outbreak, achieving settlements covering medical expenses and pain and suffering.