Sun Orchard Faces Claims from Over Seventy-Five Salmonella Victims -- Several have been Hospitalized


SEATTLE - Since the filing of a nationwide class action last week, over seventy-five people sickened by Sun Orchard unpasteurized orange juice have contacted the Seattle law firm of Marler Clark, dozens of whom are the parents of young children. The individuals who have contacted the firm have been from Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Texas and Iowa. “Most of the adults and children suffered painful and frightening illnesses that were thankfully short-lived; however, seven people from ages two to forty were hospitalized from two to six days. This is a far more serious outbreak than was first reported,” said Bill Marler, an attorney at Marler Clark. The contaminated orange juice was manufactured by Sun Orchard, which is based in Tempe, Arizona.

According to the Seattle King County Department of Health, Salmonella has been reported in Oregon, California, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Alaska, New York, Iowa, Alberta, British Columbia and Washington. To date sixty-three cases of Salmonella have been reported among King County residents. Thirty-six of these have been confirmed as Salmonella Muenchen cases, and related to Sun Orchard orange juice. In addition, twenty-eight cases have been reported in other Washington counties, sixteen confirmed to be related to this outbreak. These numbers are expected to rise. According to Mr. Marler, “This outbreak is expected to be larger than the Odwalla outbreak in 1996.”

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail, and elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there may be long term consequences to a Salmonella infection. Persons with diarrhea usually recover completely, although it may be several months before their bowel habits are entirely normal. A small number of persons 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.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first time that unpasteurized orange juice has been implicated in a Salmonella outbreak. Sun Orchard should have known it was risking people’s health,” said Denis Stearns, a Marler Clark partner. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, a 1995 outbreak occurred at Disneyland in Orlando, Florida where sixty-two people were sickened and the outbreak was eventually linked to “inadequately sanitized processing equipment.” “I find it shameful that Sun Orchard announces that it will now pasteurize its juice. Why now, why not before, why after 100 people are sickened. This is the same ploy utilized by Odwalla after it sickened hundreds,” said Mr. Stearns.

“The FDA should have required warning labels on all containers of unpasteurized orange juice long before the Sun Orchard outbreak. Instead, the FDA granted the juice industry an extension. Consumers have a right to know what they are drinking,” stated Bruce Clark, now a Marler Clark partner and former defense counsel for Jack in the Box. The FDA had set forth a labeling requirement that stated: “WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and, therefore, may contain harmful bacteria which can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.”

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Marler Clark has been involved in hundreds of cases involving foodborne bacteria. These have included the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak; the 1996 Odwalla E. coli outbreak; the 1998 Malt-O-Meal Salmonella outbreak; the 1998 Finley School District E. coli outbreak in the Tri-cities, Washington; and the 1999 Golden Corral E. coli outbreak in Kearney, Nebraska.

More about the Sun Orchard orange juice Salmonella outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.