Can I Sue Jennie-O for Food Poisoning?

Yes, you can sue Jennie-O for food poisoning if there is evidence to support your claim.  Consumers have filed Salmonella lawsuits against Jennie-O.

Our experienced food poisoning attorneys can help you determine if you have a case and how best to proceed. We have represented clients in every major outbreak in the U.S. securing some of the nation’s largest-ever verdicts and settlements. In one of our lawsuits against a major poultry producer, we won a landmark verdict on behalf of a child who suffered brain damage after contracting a Salmonella Heidelberg infection from contaminated poultry.

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Jennie-O is Owned by a Fortune 500 Co.

Jennie-O Turkey Store is the nation’s second-largest turkey producer, according to an industry report compiled by Watt Poultry USA. The Willmar, MN-based company employs more than 7,000 people at its 21 facilities which include, hatcheries, feed mills, slaughterhouses, and processing facilities. In 2020, Jennie-O processed 1.2 billion pounds of turkey and reported $105 million in earnings on sales of $1.3 billion. But an even larger company owns Jennie-O, Homel Foods Corp., a Fortune 500 company based in Austin, MN. For the fiscal year ended October 25, 2020, Hormel reported $1.1 billion in earnings on $9.6 billion in sales.

Jennie-O sells a variety of turkey products under its eponymous brand name. These include whole turkeys, wings, drumsticks, and breasts; ground turkey, sausage, burgers, meatballs, bacon, and sliced deli meat. The company produces all of its products at its facilities in Minnesota and Wisconsin and sells them to retail, deli, and foodservice outlets around the world.

Over the last decade, Jennie-O products have been linked to two food poisoning outbreaks – a Salmonella Reading outbreak in 2018 and a Salmonella Hadar outbreak in 2011.

Jennie-O Food Poisoning Outbreaks

2018 Turkey Salmonella Reading Outbreak

In February 2018, the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture announced a Salmonella outbreak linked to raw turkey pet food. Two children whose pets ate the food were sick. One of them developed osteomyelitis, a serious and painful bone infection. Pritzker Hageman filed lawsuits on behalf of a number of people sickened in this outbreak including one of the children with osteomyelitis.

In July 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a Salmonella Reading outbreak linked to raw turkey products that included the Minnesota cases and illnesses in other states. The U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) said it found the outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading in samples taken from raw turkey products, raw turkey pet food, and live turkeys. Tests showed that the strain was present in raw turkey products from 19 slaughterhouses, six processing establishments, and live turkeys at farms in several states. The CDC said these findings indicate that the outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading is widespread in the turkey industry.

By mid-November 2018, the outbreak had turned deadly and grown to include 164 people in 35 states. The hospitalization rate was more than double the average. And about half of the patients had antibiotic-resistant infections.

“Monday-morning Quarterbacking”

With Thanksgiving approaching, two consumer watchdog groups, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Consumer Reports, urged USDA FSIS to name names of products involved. The agency told the groups to save the “Monday-morning quarterbacking” and leave outbreak investigation to the professionals. “If we had specific products that we could alert consumers to with a Public Health Alert, we would issue one,” the agency said.

The next day, two things happened. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D- CT), author of the Pathogen Reduction and Testing Reform Act which aims to help the USDA better safeguard Americans, called out the agency for attacking the consumer groups and putting corporate interests over the health of Americans. And Jennie-O issued a Salmonella recall for ground turkey after health officials in Arizona found the outbreak strain in an unopened package of Jennie-O ground turkey in an outbreak patient’s home.

raw ground turkey

Salmonella is an Industrywide Problem

The USDA posted the recall on its website with a note saying recalls from other companies may follow. And Jennie-O President Steve Lykken issued a statement. He said health officials found the outbreak strain in 29 plants owned by 19 companies. Although the turkey industry had been working for years to reduce Salmonella, those findings show more needs to be done. He pledged that Jennie-O would work with other companies on best practices for the industry.  And that the company would strive to educate consumers on how to safely handle and prepare turkey.

“We know the issue of Salmonella isn’t specific to Jennie-O, and to that end, we plan on continuing our leadership role in the effort to reduce Salmonella and educate consumers on how to safely handle and prepare raw turkey and are calling on others in the industry to do the same,” the statement read in part.

Two days later, Jennie-O expanded the 91,000-pound recall. The only other company that issued a recall after Jennie-O was another pet food company in Minnesota.


Turkey Salmonella Lawsuit – Jennie-O Recall

When asked by the Associated Press how many of the 29 affected plants it owned, Hormel responded that it owned five. No other turkey companies revealed such information, likely because most aren’t public companies. By the time the Salmonella Reading turkey outbreak ended in April 2019, 358 people had been sickened and one person had died.

2011 Jennie-O Salmonella Hadar Outbreak

In April 2011, the CDC announced a Salmonella Hadar outbreak linked to Jennie-O turrkey burgers. Between December 27, 2010, to March 24, 2011, the outbreak had sickened 12 people in 10 states.  The number of cases reported from each state was: Arizona (1), California (1), Colorado (1), Georgia (1), Illinois (1), Missouri (1), Mississippi (1), Ohio (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3). Three of the patients, who ranged in age from 1 year to 86 years old, required hospitalization.

Samples of Jennie-O ground turkey burgers collected from the homes of case patients in Colorado and Wisconsin tested positive for the outbreak strain of Salmonella Hadar. On April 1, 2011, Jennie-O issued a recall for 54,960 pounds of frozen, raw turkey burger products.

2021 Ground Turkey Salmonella Hadar Outbreak

Salmonella Hadar is an uncommon serotype. Over the last decade, this serotype in backyard poultry flocks has caused a half dozen outbreaks. But Jennie-O turkey burgers were the only food product to cause a Salmonella Hadar outbreak.  Until now.

In March 2021, USDA FSIS revealed ground turkey was the suspected source of a Salmonella Hadar outbreak. A few weeks later, the agency issued a health alert for Plainville Brands ground turkey. The CDC then confirmed that ground turkey was the source of a 12-state Salmonella outbreak that had sickened 28 people. Plainville Brands produced ground turkey sold under the brand names Plainville Farms, Wegmans and Nature’s Promise.

But the CDC said Plainville Brands turkey products don’t account for all of the illness. During interviews with health officials, case-patients reported eating various brand names of ground turkey products from multiple stores. And, when USDA-FSIS conducted traceback investigations of the origin of those products, it discovered they came from several processing facilities. What’s more, the agency revealed, that state health officials and other regulatory bodies found the outbreak strain in “several turkey products” collected for routine testing.

It’s not clear why USDA FSIS didn’t make these results public. But what is certain is that other brand names are implicated in this outbreak.

Experienced Food Poisoning Lawyers

If contaminated food made you sick, please contact the Pritzker Hageman Food Poisoning Team. We have represented clients in most major food poisoning outbreaks in the U.S. You can reach us by calling 1-888-377-8900, sending a text to 612-261-0856, or by completing the form below. There is no obligation and we don’t get paid unless we win.

We are not paid unless you win. Submitting this form does not create an attorney-client relationship.