Today the American Association of Justice (AAJ) published a report detailing the need for civil legislation to change food safety policy and the role litigation plays in changing the food industry. Link to report can be found at the bottom of the page. Our law firm and other food safety law firms have fundamentally changed food production practices through litigation but despite these efforts, significant regulatory gaps remain. The report highlights the need to change the fractured food safety system that too often fails to hold companies accountable.
Our former clients, John and Pat McKissick, have used their experience with foodborne illness to become advocates for food safety and spoke about their experience: “John was unconscious, incubated, his blood pressure spiked, he had small strokes, sepsis. Fred Pritzker and Brendan Flaherty carried John and me through these months of fear. They found out through their investigation how John got sick, and where the contamination happened. Fred Pritzker himself knew more about Listeria than anyone in the medical field and anyone we came into contact with. We faced mounting medical costs, and our quality of life completely changed. We faced an uncertain future. We are grateful that we had a good lawyer on our side.” The family has shared their experience in several publications and earlier this spring, John was one of several Listeria victims who addressed officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Prior to his illness, Mr. McKissick was an expert in management and executive training, focusing primarily in Middle Eastern countries. He speaks passable Arabic and fluent Farsi and has periodically lived in the Middle East during his decades-long professional career. After ingesting an imported soft cheese, Mr. McKissick contracted listeriosis which caused a severe neurological breakdown. Thankfully, after extensive medical treatment and a long rehabilitation, Mr. McKissick managed to breath, walk and talk as he had before his illness, though he still suffers from less severe symptoms. The McKissicks now draw from their painful experience with foodborne illness to advocate for food safety and prevent what happened to them from happening to others. Attorney Brendan remarks how gracefully the family handled their tragedy, “Throughout their ordeal they showed courage and remarkable perseverance. It was a pleasure and an honor to fight for them.”
Our law firm has been involved in almost every major foodborne illness outbreak of the last decade. The firm currently represents Philip Schockley in a case against Blue Bell. Mr. Schockley suffered a debilitating brain injury after the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria within the ice cream infected his blood and migrated to his brain.
The firm also represents the families of two children severely injured in the Foster Farms chicken Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak.
Ten Worst Foodborne Illness Outbreaks
- Blue Bell Ice Cream Listeria (2015)
Our Bad Bug Law Team, led by attorney Fred Pritzker, filed the first lawsuit in the Blue Bell Ice Cream outbreak on behalf of a man who suffered debilitating brain injury after the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria infected his blood and migrated to his brain, causing extensive damage and leaving him near death. Our client serves as one of the 10 victims of this fatal Listeria outbreak. The corresponding FDA investigation into outbreak revealed some profoundly disturbing behavior on behalf of the company. For example, one of the Blue Bell manufacturing plants reported presence of Listeria dating back to 2010.
- Foster Farms Chicken and Salmonella Heidelberg (2013)
The 2013 Foster Farms chicken Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak was the largest Salmonella poultry outbreak on record, lasting 16 months and sickening an estimated 18,000.
- Jensen Farms Cantaloupes and Listeria (2011)
147 contracted the deadly Listeria bacteria. The outbreak which affected people in a total of 28 states was caused by poorly processed cantaloupe fruit. Despite a “96% score” from a private auditor Jensen Farms hired, federal investigation of the processing facility revealed severe inadequacies in food safety equipment.
- Cargill Turkey and Salmonella Heidelberg (2011)
In 2011, Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation, a division of Cargill, recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey after the CDC traced an outbreak of multi-drug resistant Salmonella Heidelberg back to a Cargill manufacturing plant. ,
- DeCoster Eggs and Salmonella (2010)
A suspected 60,000 people were sickened from DeCoster eggs in 2010 Salmonella outbreak and resulted in criminal convictions. Food safety Attorney Ryan Osterholm elaborates on the sentencing, “This sentence sends a strong message that the government is serious about food safety and will not tolerate shoddy and unsafe operations. I think the time in jail is well deserved for what the DeCosters did to thousands of families across America.”
- Peanut Corporation of America Peanuts and Salmonella (2009)
“Just ship it,” was Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) President Stewart Parnell’s response to managers’ reports of product tainted with Salmonella bacteria. PCA product, which was sold under the company name King Nut peanut butter, was distributed in bulk packaging to institutions, food service industries, and private label food companies. The contaminated product sickened thousands and left 9 people dead. When our client’s mother passed away after being served contaminated peanut butter at her nursing home her surviving family sought guidance of an experienced food safety attorney. Regarding the lawsuit on behalf of his mother, the surviving son had this to say, “This lawsuit is about holding an irresponsible company accountable for the food safety shortcuts it took—shortcuts that cost my mother her life.”
- Hallmark/Westland Beef and downer cows (2008) – 143 million pounds of beef recalled
In 2008 a Humane Society video exposed a horrific practice of killing “downer” cows. A downer cow is a cow too sick to walk, thought to be at a greater risk for disease, like mad cow disease. Employees were forcing cows into kill pens using forklifts and high pressure washer hoses. The following USDA investigation resulted in a recall of 143 million pounds of beef, the largest beef recall in history. The company agreed to a $497 million fine.
- Mission Organics Spinach and E.coli (2006) – 200 sickened, 5 dead
The 2006 Mission Organic Spinach E.coli outbreak was significant in demonstrating at a national platform that deadly foodborne pathogens were not limited to meat products. After months of investigation the FDA traced outbreak back to a field in California that had been contaminated with fecal matter from animals. As a result of this outbreak the industry developed new rules expanding the buffer zone between crops and pasture areas.
- Pilgrim’s Pride Poultry and Listeria (2002)
Our law firm played a primary role in litigating what was at the time was the largest turkey recall in history. The Listeria outbreak linked to turkey deli meat sickened 46 people and left 7 dead. 27 million pounds of poultry were recalledOne of the most tragic aspects of Listeria monocytogenes is how susceptible pregnant women are to infection that can lead to miscarriage. Our firm represented two mothers who lost fetal children as a result of consuming contaminated turkey. Their loss is tragic and wholly preventable.
- Jack in the Box E.coli outbreak (1993)
According to the AAJ report the Jack in the Box E.coli O157:H7 outbreak that sickened over 700 people proved to be “food safety’s wakeup call.” As much as half of the meat supplied to the fast-food restaurant had bacteria levels violating quality standards, author Emily Green explains the realization of many saying, “This is not bacteria. This is animal fecal matter in our food.”
Our Bad Bug Law Team are food safety lawyers with decades of experience. We have won millions on behalf of our clients. You can click here now if you want a FREE consultation with an attorney at our law firm.