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Family sues maker of Veggie Booty

Voorheesville parent just wanted apology after children got sick

Cathleen F. Crowley,

Albany Times-Union Staff Writer

July 18, 2007

ALBANY -- They said Veggie Booty sickened their children and left a bad taste in their mouths.

Now, the Scheels family of Voorheesville is suing the maker of Veggie Booty, a puffed-rice-and-corn snack that caused salmonella poisoning in two of their children and 58 other people, mostly toddlers, across the nation.

Elex Scheels said she is disappointed with Veggie Booty's owner, Robert Ehrlich, president of Robert's American Gourmet.

"If this man reached out and said 'Oh, my gosh, this is horrifying, I'm so sorry. I will do everything in my power to make sure this won't happen again,' this lawsuit wouldn't be happening," said Scheels, the mother of triplets Syndey, Cole and Michael.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday with state Supreme Court in Albany County. It is the second suit triggered by the salmonella outbreak.

Sydney and Cole, 20 months old, ate Veggie Booty and came down with a fever and bloody diarrhea, their parents said. They have since recovered.

Ehrlich was not at his office Tuesday and the lawyer for the company did not return a phone call. The company voluntarily recalled Veggie Booty when the outbreak was traced back to its snack. The company's Web site details the time line of the events, but does not offer an apology to the victims. The company did post more than a dozen letters of praise from Veggie Booty fans.

"Normally, what you see is companies saying how really sorry they are," said William Marler, the Seattle lawyer who represents the Scheels and 34 other Veggie Booty families. "I haven't really seen that from them."

Robert's American Gourmet has said it will buy ingredients directly from domestic sources whenever possible and go above government standards to prevent further contamination.

The company said the salmonella source was spice imported from China purchased from Atlantic Quality Spice and Seasonings, a division of Van de Vries Trading Corp., Edison, N.J.

Marler estimated that a typical salmonella plaintiff usually receives less than $100,000 in a jury award or settlement.

"If this it what it takes to get people's attention, then this is what I have to do," Scheels said.

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