Sunday Telegram (Worcester, MA)
October 9, 2012
A family in South Grafton, MA, whose 4-year-old son allegedly contracted a rare species of salmonella from peanut butter purchased at Trader Joe’s in Shrewsbury is suing Trader Joe’s and New Mexico-based Sunland Inc., the manufacturer of the spread.
Jason B. and Brandi Henson filed a lawsuit last Thursday in Worcester Superior Court after tests on their son Jackson came back positive for salmonella bredeney, a rare strain previously seen in small outbreaks in Alabama, Ireland and Northern Ireland. While Jackson is recovering, the parents have paid $1,565 in medical bills, and also are asking for court costs and lawyer’s fees as a result of his pain and suffering.
The Valencia-brand peanut butter contaminated with the bacteria was purchased by Henson several times from March through July at Trader Joe’s at 77 Boston Turnpike (Route 9) in Shrewsbury. Her son regularly eats Valencia peanut butter in sandwiches and with other foods.
Jackson became ill around July 31 with nausea, cramps and diarrhea. His symptoms persisted for days following the onset, and he required two visits to a pediatrician. His stool sample tested positive for salmonella bredeney, matching the strain in an outbreak reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in late September. The outbreak at that time had caused 29 illnesses in 18 states. There are at least two other cases in Massachusetts.
On Friday, Sunland announced a recall of all of its products made in its nut butter production facility, including almond and cashew butter, tahini and roasted blanched peanut products. The recall is limited to products manufactured between May 1 and Sept. 24. Trader Joe’s last month recalled the peanut butter, citing the potential salmonella contamination.
Henson said she tries to shop at stores such as Trader Joe’s for better ingredients, and she didn’t think something like this could happen. She is now suing Sunland and Trader Joe’s because she says she wants to hold them accountable.
“We especially buy organic and all natural foods as much as we can because we’re trying to protect our kids and be healthy,” she said. “And to know that the food we’re buying is tainted, we just don’t want that to happen.”
Many of the brands included in the recall are labeled organic or all-natural. Major peanut butter brands such as Jif, Skippy and Peter Pan are not a part of the recall, which includes nut butters and nut products sold at Whole Foods Market, Target, Safeway, Costco, Fresh & Easy, Harry and David, Sprouts, Heinen’s, Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., Giant Food of Landover, MD, and several other stores since 2010.
Some of those retailers used Sunland ingredients in items they prepared and packaged themselves or sold the peanut butter in jars labeled with a store brand. The CDC’s investigation, done with local and state health departments, identified Trader Joe’s Valencia-brand peanut butter as the contaminated food that caused the recently reported outbreak.
The Hensons’ lawsuit, filed by lawyers James M. Brady of Worcester and William D. Marler of Seattle, alleges Jackson suffered substantial physical, financial and emotional damage. It also says Trader Joe’s and Sunland breached an implied warranty of merchandising and of the fitness of product because the CDC reported an increase in salmonella reports in unopened jars of peanut butter since 2006. In addition, the lawsuit alleges Trader Joe’s and Sunland were negligent.
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