Hepatitis A Outbreak Spreads to Midwest, Spurs Class Action

Hepatitis A lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm recently reported on the hepatitis outbreak originating from a blend of frozen organic berries sold at Costco. The berries, manufactured by Townsend Farms, have now infected at least 120 people in nine states, now including Wisconsin.

The other seven states are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Washington. About 58% of those infected are women, and ages range from two to 84 years. Five children have been infected, none of whom have received the hepatitis A vaccination which were made available in 2006. About 45% of those infected had to be hospitalized, though fortunately no deaths have been reported.

Investigations by the FDA, CDC, along with state and local health departments are currently underway. Costco quickly notified its consumers who purchased the Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend of the contamination, and promptly removed the product from its shelves. This specific blend of pomegranates and berries was distributed in 12 states (AZ, AK, CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, NV, NM, OR, UT and WA). The person infected in Wisconsin consumed the product in California.

The outbreak was confirmed on June 4, 2013, and just six days later, on June 10, a man in Washington filed a class action lawsuit against Townsend Farms. The Washington plaintiffs include those who had to receive hepatitis A vaccinations or immune globulin injections to prevent infection after eating the contaminated berry blend. It will also extend to those who required testing for hepatitis A after consuming the Townsend product.

According to the complaint, lead plaintiff Jay Seward bought the Townsend Blend at a Costco store in California, only learning of the contamination and recall after consuming it. After the contamination was revealed, he and his wife were forced to receive serology testing to determine whether their consumption of the berry mix resulted in hepatitis A infection. They both also received vaccinations against the infection (vaccinations can only prevent infection if administered within 14 days of exposure).

The vaccination can prevent or reduce symptoms of hepatitis A, which is a serious disease of the liver and can cause death in those susceptible to illness. The class-action is intended to reimburse residents for the cost of receiving a hepatitis A vaccine, immune globulin injection, or hepatitis A tests, in addition to any time missed from work and other expenses incurred from the contamination and exposure.

Plaintiffs are asking Townsend Farms to compensate them for their costs, along with compensate public health agencies for the costs associated with providing a high number of shot clinics and outbreak-related investigations. They believe Washington taxpayers should not be held responsible for the company’s negligent food safety processes and that the financial burden should rest on Townsend alone.

In related news, Lipari Foods recently recalled its sunflower seeds and snack mixes due to possible Listeria contamination. Listeria is an organism that can cause serious and potentially fatal infections in young children, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems, such as cancer or AIDS patients. Symptoms of Listeria infection include high fever, severe headache, stiffness, abdominal pain, diarrhea and nausea. The organism can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women, so precautions must be taken immediately if you have consumed these nuts.

The raw and roasted sunflower seeds and snack mixes were distributed to manufacturers and retailers in nine states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. In total there are 52 separate Lipari Foods items that are affected by the recall. Follow this link to the FDA to find more detailed information, such as UPC and lot codes.

Food recall lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on any significant cases of contamination, infection, and market withdrawals. If you or a loved one was seriously sickened by a contaminated food or drug, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to compensation through a lawsuit against the manufacturer.

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