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Lawsuit Filed in Nationwide Outbreak of Salmonella in Peanut Butter

A lawsuit stemming from the national outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium in peanut butter was filed today against the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) in the US District Court, Middle District of Georgia. The complaint was filed on behalf of Vermont residents Gabrielle and Daryl Meunier, whose son was sickened in the outbreak. The minor and his parents are represented by Seattle lawyer William Marler and foodborne illness law firm Marler Clark, and by Patrick Flynn of Flynn, Peeler & Phillips of Albany, GA.

The outbreak, which began in September, has sickened more that 475 people, hospitalized over 90, and contributed to six deaths. The illnesses were first linked to peanut butter on January 9, and later traced to a PCA processing plant in Blakely, GA. Many companies who purchased peanut butter or peanut paste from the plant have begun recalling products. One of the first was Kellogg’s, who recalled Keebler brand peanut butter cracker sandwiches, but it was too late for the Meunier family, whose son consumed the crackers and fell ill on November 25.

The 7-year-old’s symptoms were fever, vomiting, and frequent bouts of diarrhea, which turned bloody. When he did not improve, his family took him to the emergency room, where he was admitted to the hospital. He remained hospitalized until December 4. During that time, he tested positive for what would later be revealed as the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. He is still recovering from his illness, experiencing recurring diarrhea, painful stomach cramps, and body aches and pains.

“Today is a tremendous day in America,” said Marler. “We are inaugurating a President who campaigned on a platform of change, hope, and justice. I sincerely hope that Mr. Obama will be able to effect change in our food safety agencies and policies. In the mean time, hundreds of Americans are ill, and six families are mourning. All of those families have medical bills, some have lost time at work, and we all know what a strain that is. Something has to be done about it.”

Marler, who called for more action from the FDA earlier in the outbreak, also represented many of the compensated victims of the ConAgra peanut butter outbreak of 2007.

“We learned a lot in the last peanut butter outbreak, and it’s sad that we have to put that knowledge to use,” continued Marler. “But what we know is that we have to make sure all possibly contaminated product is promptly recalled, and that the responsible companies step up to pay the medical bills of the victims as well as the cost of government investigations. In addition, the public needs to know what safety precautions the Peanut Corporation of America was taking, especially after the 2007 outbreak. Finally, they need to show the public what will be done to prevent the next outbreak.”

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