First Personal Injury Lawsuits Filed in Tainted Peanut Butter-Related Deaths
By Gerri Elder
A recent nationwide salmonella outbreak has been linked to peanut butter distributed by Ohio-based King Nut and the Peanut Corp. of America, of Lynchburg, Va. King Nut distributed peanut butter to food suppliers in seven states and the Peanut Corp. of America manufactures and distributes institutional brands.
Two elderly people who lived in a nursing home in Brainerd, Minnesota died after eating contaminated peanut butter. The families of both victims decided to file a wrongful death lawsuit in connection with the deaths.
A Minneapolis law firm has said it will file a lawsuit in the deaths of Shirley Mae Almer and Doris Flatgard. Ms. Almer, 72, died on Dec. 21 from salmonella poisoning. Ms. Flatgard died 14 days later.
Minnesota health officials have confirmed the peanut butter eaten by the women was contaminated by the same strain of salmonella bacteria that sickened at least 425 people in 43 states, according to attorney Fred Pritzker.
In the death of Clifford Tousignant, 78, it is difficult to determine if salmonella was directly responsible. Tousignant passed away on Jan. 12 and had eaten contaminated peanut butter, but also suffered from underlying health problems that could have contributed to his death.
Ms. Almer's family plans to file a personal injury lawsuit against the distributor and manufacturer of the peanut butter.
The focus of the federal investigation into the source of the contamination is on a Blakely, Ga. peanut processing plant owned by the Peanut Corp. Peanut butter and peanut paste manufactured at the plant is distributed to institutions, institutional suppliers and the food processing industry.
According to an Associated Press report, on Jan. 16 Peanut Corp. expanded its recall of peanut butter and peanut paste made in the Blakely plant. The recall affects all peanut butter produced in the plant on or after Aug. 8, 2008 and peanut paste produced on or after Sept. 26, 2008.
The Associated Press also reported that a a scientist that performed some of the salmonella testing for the peanut maker testified before Congress that the Peanut Corp. of America asked for "re-tests" of certain batches of peanut butter after a few samples turned up positive for salmonella.
Also on Jan. 16, Kellogg Co. announced the recall of 16 products containing peanut butter because of possible contamination. This recall includes peanut butter sandwich crackers marketed under Austin and Keebler brands, some snack-size packs of Famous Amos Peanut Butter Cookies and Keebler Soft Batch Homestyle Peanut Butter Cookies. The Peanut Corp. supplied Kellogg with the peanut butter used in these products.Other recalled products include Wal-Mart Bakery cookies, certain Cliff Bar products, some Little Debbie Products and Trader Joe's celery with peanut butter.
The Minnesota Department of Health recommends that consumers avoid eating the recalled brands until more information is available about the extent of the salmonella contamination.
The Food and Drug Administration has advised consumers not to eat the recalled products, to seek medical treatment for any symptoms and to carefully dispose of any products that may be contaminated with salmonella.