Marler Clark calls on FDA to Require Sprout Labeling


SEATTLE, WA - The sprout-related Salmonella outbreak earlier this month has prompted the attorneys of the Seattle law firm, Marler Clark, to call on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require warnings on packaging of all raw sprouts. “According the FDA’s own 1999 advisory, Recommendations on Sprouted Seeds, sprouts have been increasingly implicated in foodborne outbreaks. The time has come to label sprouts as potentially hazardous,” said William Marler, the firm’s managing partner. He suggests this labeling mirror the requirements now found on unpasteurized juices:

WARNING: This product may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.

According to the California Department of Health Services (DHS), 45 individuals in Sacramento, Yolo, and Placer Counties have been infected with Salmonella Enteritidis this month. The DHS has linked this outbreak to the consumption of raw mung bean sprouts grown by Pacific Coast Sprout Farms, a sprout manufacturer based in Sacramento, California.

There are approximately 2,000 serotypes of Salmonella that can cause sickness in humans. A common myth is that you can only get Salmonella from raw eggs, but various Salmonella species have been found in foods such as raw meats, poultry, swine, milk and dairy products, fish, frog legs, yeast, coconut, peanut butter, chocolate, and environmental sources such as water, insects, and kitchen surfaces. The reality is Salmonella is being reported in new mediums that were once thought harmless, such as the recent infections linked to a toasted oat cereal, orange juice and sprouts.

There has been a dramatic rise in the incidence of salmonellosis all over the world, including the United States. Every year, approximately 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States. Because many milder cases are not diagnosed or reported, the actual number of infections is sometimes estimated to be twenty or more times greater. It is estimated that approximately 1,000 persons in the United States die each year with acute salmonellosis.

Persons with diarrhea usually recover completely, although it may be several months before their bowel habits are entirely normal. A small number of persons, who are infected with Salmonella, will go on to develop pains in their joints, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination. This is called Reiter's syndrome. It can last for months or years, and can lead to chronic arthritis, which is difficult to treat. Antibiotic treatment does not make a difference in whether or not the person later develops arthritis.

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BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Attorney William Marler has extensive experience representing victims of food-borne illness. He represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million settlement with Jack in the Box. This settlement set a Washington State record for an individual personal injury action. In May 1998, he settled the 1996 Odwalla Juice E. coli outbreak for the five families whose children were severely injured after consuming Odwalla Apple Juice. Additionally, Marler Clark has represented over 100 victims of salmonellosis stemming from sprouts, unpasteurized orange juice, and cereal.