Turkey Recall Lawsuit

Cargill Meat Recalls Turkey Meat

Cargill Meat Solutions has recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey meat potentially contaminated by salmonella bacteria. The second biggest U.S. meat recall was prompted after a nationwide salmonella outbreak resulted in the death of one consumer in California and hospitalization of 76 others in 26 states. The illness caused by salmonella outbreak was first reported on March 7th. It spread from coast to coast by mid-July. The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a public health alert on July 29th confirming the link between the illness caused by the bacteria and the ground turkey meat. It ordered for the investigation after some leftovers from turkey meat recovered from a victim’s house were found infected with salmonella bacteria.

The USDA informed the Cargill management of its findings on August 3rd that triggered the recall. According to a press release, the Minnesota-based company is recalling all fresh and frozen turkey products processed at its plant in Springdale, Arkansas, between February 20th and August 2nd 2011 for possible infection from the strain of salmonella. The affected packages bear the code "Est. P-963" and are sold under different meat and grocery store brands, such as Honeysuckle White, HEB, Riverside Ground Turkey, Safeway, Natural Lean Ground Turkey, Kroger, Fit & Active Lean Ground Turkey, Randall's, Tom Thumb Spartan Ground Turkey, Giant Eagle, and Shady Brook Farms Burgers.

Salmonella Health Hazards

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the ground turkey products are contaminated with Salmonella Heidelberg bacteria that can resist multiple drugs, including antibiotics. It can cause infection, resulting in diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and acute fever within 12 hours of entering the intestine. Though the sickness lasts for a week, it can cause fatal health problems when the bacteria spread to bloodstream and other vital organs in the body. Severe salmonella infection can cause death of infants, seniors, and those with impaired immune systems. The infection caused by the bacteria has also been linked to a type of rare kidney failure, known as hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Previous Recalls by Cargill

Cargill and its subsidiaries have made 10 recalls since 1993. The present recall is the second by Cargill in the past one year. In August 2010, the meat giant voluntarily recalled 8500 pounds of beef products following E coli outbreak in northeastern states. The USDA investigations reported three illnesses in Maine and New York caused by the consumption of contaminated ground beef.

In August 2009, Beef Packers, a subsidiary owned by Cargill, pulled out 826,000 pounds of ground beef after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture linked the products to a salmonella outbreak in 12 states. There were at least 30 reported cases of sickness from Colorado, California, and Wyoming. Samples taken from residents of eight other states also confirmed same salmonella infection. The company issued another recall covering 22,723 pounds of beef products, including meat balls, ground beef, and beef patties, from Arizona and New Mexico markets in October. According to a report by the Arizona Department of Health Services, the Beef Packers products were linked to two E coli illnesses in the state.

The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service detected E. coli infection on products processed at Cargill Australia’s Wagga Wagga plant in March 2009. It resulted in a temporary ban on the export of meat to Japan and the United States. In October 2007, the meat giant recalled about 850,000 frozen beef patties from the U.S. market after joint investigations by Minnesota Health and Agriculture authorities found E. coli O157:H7 contamination in the products. Emmpak, another subsidiary of Cargill, recalled ground beef worth 2.8 million pounds linked to an E. coli breakout in October 2002.

Other Big Meat Recalls

The biggest-ever meat recall in the United States was by Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., which had used potentially sick “downer” cattle for the supply. The company recalled 143 million pounds of beef. Thorn Apple Valley Inc. voluntarily recalled 35 million pounds of meat in 1999 after a study found its frozen and ready-to-eat products contaminated with listeria.

Cargill Salmonella Lawsuits

A day after Cargill recalled its products, David Taber, a 38-year old resident from Arizona, filed a salmonella lawsuit against the company in a federal court in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The victim was hospitalized for a week following consumption of contaminated turkey meat. He experienced abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea within hours of the meat consumption. Mr. Taber was diagnosed with acute colitis two days later. According to doctors at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, infection turned septic and life-threatening in the patient, as the salmonella bacteria spread into his bloodstream.

Cargill has been facing a number of lawsuits for supplying contaminated meat products. In October 2007, a Minnesota family sued the meat major after Cargill’s beef patties led to E. coli infections in two children. One of the victims developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a kind of kidney impairment. A month later, two Tennessee siblings filed a lawsuit seeking compensation from Cargill for health hazards caused due to its salmonella infected hamburgers. While the boy’s colon was removed as a result of the infection, his sister had to remain hospitalized for a week.

In May 2010, Cargill settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of Stephanie Smith for an undisclosed sum. The victim suffered from paraplegia and impaired kidney functions and cognitive abilities after salmonella-infected meat caused him hemolytic uremic syndrome. According to estimates, the compensation ran into multimillion dollars. The victim had sought $100 million in compensation. Cargill has settled eight E. coli lawsuits by paying compensations to plaintiffs seeking damages since 2000. It paid more than $4 million to parents of an 11-year-old girl, who developed kidney problems following infections caused by contaminated hamburger.

In December 2008, parents of a 10-year-old Minneapolis girl slapped a $4.3 million lawsuit on Cargill Meat Solutions after their daughter became seriously ill following consumption of  E. coli-tainted beef patties.