A Salmonella lawsuit was filed Thursday on behalf of the family of a San Leandro woman who died from a Salmonella infection contracted from tainted pepper. The lawsuit was filed against U. F. Union International Food, which produced the spices as well as against the companies that sold and distributed them. The Seattle-based food safety law firm Marler Clark filed the suit in the Superior Court for the State of California, County of Alameda.
The Union International Food outbreak sickened more than 87 people in Western states between December 2008 and April 2009; the majority of the illnesses were in California. Public health officials traced the outbreak to white pepper manufactured by Union International and sold under the brand names Uncle Chen and Lian How. Ultimately the company recalled more than 50 products, including spices, oils, and sauces, due to potential contamination with Salmonella.
A separate outbreak of Salmonella linked to black and red pepper is currently responsible for sickening at least 238 people in 44 states and DC. Daniele International Inc. has recalled 1,395,989 pounds of ready-to-eat salami meats potentially contaminated by the tainted spices. Marler Clark has filed two lawsuits on behalf of consumers who became ill from eating the Salmonella-tainted salami.
In February 2009, 69-year-old Donna Pierce underwent a lobectomy (lung surgery) in Hayward, CA. The surgery went well and she was released after a 10-day recovery. While at the hospital, she consumed white pepper that was manufactured, sold, and distributed by those named in the lawsuit. Days after returning home she began to experience severe abdominal pain. She returned to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a Salmonella infection, and ultimately re-admitted. She succumbed to her infection on April 9, 2009. Her Salmonella infection was serotype rissen, a genetic match to the outbreak strain found in Union International Food pepper. It is estimated that more than 600 people die each year from Salmonella infections.