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Family of Three Made Ill Sues Over Contaminated 5-Layer Dip

A lawsuit was filed yesterday over illnesses linked to contaminated Mexican-style five-layer dip. The lawsuit alleges negligence by Senor Felix Gourmet Mexican Foods of Baldwin Park, Calif., and seeks unspecified damages for lost wages, medical expenses and emotional distress. It was filed in King County Superior Court on behalf of Larissa and Robert Spafford and their 2-year-old son, Jasper, of Port Townsend.

Senor Felix recalled the dip, which was sold nationwide, in January. The contaminated product appears to have poisoned at least 49 people, the federal Food and Drug Administration said. Larissa Spafford and her son became ill with stomach cramps, fever and diarrhea after they ate some of the dip, bought at a supermarket, the lawsuit said.

More than 30 cases of shigellosis, a bacterial illness, have been reported recently in Western Washington, and 16 of the victims said they had recently consumed the dip, the state Department of Health said. Most of the illnesses have been reported in California, Oregon and Washington. "We're not really concerned about lawsuits. What we're concerned about is the health of our customers. We're doing everything we can to ensure that this doesn't happen again," Stan Wetch, Senor Felix president, yesterday.

The company is trying to ensure that all of the recalled dip actually has been pulled from store shelves, spokesman Lew Phelps said. The FDA last month issued a warning to consumers not to buy any five-layer dip sold under the following brand names: Senor Felix's Five-Layer Party Dip, Delicioso 5-Layer Dip, Trader Joe's Five-Layer Fiesta Dip or The Carryout Cafe Mexican Fiesta Party Dip 5 Layer.

The dips contain layers of black beans, salsa, guacamole, nacho cheese and sour cream. The recall applied to products prepared without preservatives with an expiration date of Feb. 9 or earlier and products prepared with preservatives with an expiration date of March 4 or earlier, health officials in California said. Symptoms of shigellosis can include bloody diarrhea, cramps, fever, nausea and vomiting. It can be treated with antibiotics. The dips may be returned to the place of purchase for a refund.

Consumers also may call Senor Felix's hot line at 1-800-807-7335.

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