The first California lawsuit stemming from Mexican-grown, Salmonella-contaminated cucumbers that were distributed to retail outlets and restaurants in the United States has been filed in San Diego, a national food-safety law firm announced Friday.
The lawsuit was filed in San Diego Superior Court against locally based Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce (A&W), attorney Ron Smith said.
According to the suit, Doris Zieman ate a salad on Aug. 13 made with A&W Limited Edition cucumbers at a Red Lobster restaurant and within 48 hours, the 73-year-old woman began to experience abdominal cramps, diarrhea, headaches, fever, body aches and chills.
Stool cultures revealed that she tested positive for Salmonella Poona matching the outbreak strain linked to tainted A&W Limited Edition cucumbers, according to the lawsuit.
Within a few weeks, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified 341 victims of Salmonella Poona poisoning in 30 states. The outbreak hospitalized at least 70 people and caused two deaths.
On Sept. 4, A&W recalled its Limited Edition cucumbers.
"Americans are relying more and more on imported foods, including produce from Mexico," said Simon. "Unfortunately, when importers like A&W don't properly screen the products they import, outbreaks can and do happen. In these lawsuits, we will examine how A&W failed and make sure that it takes the steps necessary to insure that this does not happen again."
Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce posted a statement on its website saying its "thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families and their loved ones."
A&W said it is fully cooperating with health officials to ensure it is doing everything possible to learn if it is responsible and how it could have happened.
"As soon as we received information from health officials that our product may be the source of this outbreak, we took immediate action to cease all harvesting and packing operations at this facility and to recall product from the market," according to the company.
"We are currently conducting a thorough evaluation of our cucumber farming and packing operations to determine if we can find the root cause of how this might have happened. The health and welfare of consumers is our highest priority and we spend millions of dollars on food safety at A &W. We want to get to the bottom of this as much as anyone."