PCA Salmonella Settlement Announced

The massive Salmonella outbreak that originated with <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/Peanut_Corp_of_America_Salmonella_Outbreak">tainted Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) products and that sickened hundreds of people and sparked thousands of food recalls earlier this year has ended in a settlement for some 120 victims and their families. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) wrote that about $12 million will be disbursed from that settlement.

The settlement money will not be received from PCA, which is now bankrupt, said AJC. Monies will also not be coming from the sale of PCA’s assets, which includes equipment and property from at least one plant; assets proceeds are slated for delivery to PCA creditors, explained AJC. Settlement monies come from a policy with the Hartford Insurance Company; claims against the now-defunct PCA must have been filed by last October 31st in order for claimants—or their survivors—to be eligible. Another $750,000 from the settlement will cover administrative costs and attorney fees.

Disbursements to victims will not be equal among all and will be figured based on losses, said AJC, noting that cases involving death will receive larger settlements.
Other lawsuits are also pending, for instance against companies such as Kellogg Co. and King Nut Co., that used PCA products, noted AJC, which added that this settlement involving 123 victims, is likely just the beginning of such actions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), peanut butter and peanut paste contaminated with Salmonella Typhimurium resulted in nine deaths and over 700 illnesses in 46 states, with many more cases never reported to the CDC. Items—such as cookies, crackers, candy, and ice cream—that contained Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) peanut products were eventually recalled. Because PCA supplied peanut ingredients to hundreds of other food companies, the number of recalls related to the Salmonella outbreak came close to 4,000.

During the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) investigation of the illnesses, it quickly became clear that oversight of the PCA Georgia plant at the center of the outbreak had been lax, at best. According to a prior AJC report, the Blakely, Georgia facility was inspected by the state health department on 184 occasions since 2006; however, 114 of those inspections lasted less than two hours. Not surprisingly, none of these inspections found evidence of the mold, cockroaches, and Salmonella contamination uncovered by the FDA when it investigated the plant in January.

A second PCA plant in Texas, which was closed due to deplorable conditions last February, was never properly licensed, although a state inspector who visited the plant three times since 2005 indicated in his reports that the facility was licensed correctly.

Last month we wrote that a group representing 27 victims who fell ill as a result of contaminated peanut products was seeking a Senate floor vote on legislation to increase food safety authority under the FDA and help to limit future outbreaks.
Some Salmonella bacteria are resistant to antibiotics and Salmonella is the most frequently reported cause of food-related outbreaks of stomach illness worldwide. Salmonella poisoning can lead to Reiter’s Syndrome, a difficult-to-treat reactive arthritis.

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