Company settles lawsuits over salmonella-tainted cantaloupe

LOS ANGELES - An Arizona company has settled two lawsuits stemming from a 2001 outbreak of salmonella traced to tainted cantaloupes it imported from Mexico and sold in 14 states. Seattle attorney William Marler said Friday that Shipley Sales Service, of Nogales, Ariz., settled suits filed on behalf of two victims of the April 2001 outbreak, Florence Dodds and Nathan Eget.

Dodds, 78, of Hemet, died after eating contaminated cantaloupe, apparently in the nursing home where she lived. Eget, of Tarzana, was 15 months old when he was hospitalized for nine days with fever, vomiting and severe diarrhea after eating cantaloupe bought in a local grocery store.

Terms of the settlements were not disclosed.

"The family of Florence was devastated by her loss and no amount of money ever makes up for it," Marler said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration traced the outbreak to cantaloupe imported, shipped and sold by Shipley under the Viva brand.

Officials at Shipley referred a reporter's call to company attorney Michael Harwin, who did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.

Salmonella is a bacteria that lives in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals. It is usually transmitted to humans by way of food

contaminated with animal feces.

Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Most people recover without treatment.

Every year, approximately 40,000 cases are reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Children are most likely to be infected.

To avoid contracting salmonellosis, the CDC recommends washing produce well with tap water before eating it; washing hands, utensils and kitchen surfaces frequently; and using different cutting boards and utensils for meat and produce.