Tainted raw almonds sicken four in state


Four Washington state residents have been sickened by salmonella-tainted raw almonds that are under recall, health officials said yesterday.

A mother and her two children in Kennewick and a Seattle man all consumed the almonds in recent months. Health authorities said recent investigations showed they suffered acute intestinal illness stemming from the almonds. Their cases were among two dozen reports of the illness in 10 states.

Some 13 million pounds of the nuts supplied by Paramount Farms of California and packaged under a variety of brands have been recalled.

Investigators have found no trace of salmonella in any of the recalled almonds or at Paramount, investigators say, and it's possible the outbreak's source may never be found.

Scott and Shawna Morris, of Kennewick, this week filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Spokane against Paramount. Their Seattle-based attorney, Bill Marler, said Shawna Morris and her 3-year-old daughter, Crew, contracted the illness from eating the nuts in February. The couple's 1-year-old son, Brek, then became ill from contact with his mother and sister. Marler said Shawna Morris was hospitalized for two days with the illness, salmonella enteritis, which can cause headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and dehydration.

A man in his 50s was very ill in November from eating the tainted almonds, said Matias Valenzuela, a spokesman for Public Health — Seattle & King County. Officials would not reveal other details for privacy reasons.

Authorities said all of the Washington cases stemmed from eating almonds sold at Costco under the Kirkland Signature brand. Costco has mailed about 1.2 million letters to members worldwide about the recall, said Craig Wilson, vice president for food safety and quality assurance. Wilson said the recalled almonds were in packages with "best (used) by" dates from Aug. 21, 2004, through March 15, 2005.

The recall has expanded to more companies and additional "best by" dates since the initial announcement of the tainted raw almonds on May 18. Representatives of Paramount and companies selling the nuts said that besides Kirkland Signature, other brands and stores affected in Washington state include:

• Trader Joe's and Sunkist brands — Aug. 24, 2004, through May 20, 2005.

• Gold Shield brand — 2.5-ounce bags: Lot 4049, best used by February 2005; Lot 4120, best used by April 2005; and Lot 4139, best used by May 2005. Eight-ounce bags: Lot 3294, best used by October 2004; and Lot 3321, best used by November 2004.

The Associated Press contributed information to this story. Warren King: 206-464-2247 or wking@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company