Salmonella Recall Prompts Safeway Lawsuit

Advocacy group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), is backing a lawsuit filed by two consumers against Safeway Inc., the grocery operator, said The Associated Press (AP). CSPI said that Safeway could have used—but did not use—information from its loyalty card program to contact consumers after they purchased items identified in two massive, nationwide recalls linked to <"">Salmonella contamination in peanuts/peanut products and <"">Salmonella contamination in eggs.

Dee Hensley-Maclean, purchased peanut butter crackers and Nutter Butter sandwich cookies and Jennifer Rosen of San Francisco, bought eggs that were subject to a recall.

The Peanut Salmonella scandal affected peanut products distributed nationwide, impacting most of the states and Canada. The list of recalled foods topped 3,500; some 22,500 people were sickened in the historic 2009 outbreak that was also linked to nine fatalities. In 2010, Wright County Egg, along with Hillandale Farms, recalled more than half a billion eggs due to a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella enteritidis. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received more than 1,900 reports of illnesses potentially linked to the recalled eggs in the largest such recall in U.S. history.

Both women used a Safeway Club reward card during their transactions, which gave Safeway access to their telephone numbers and email and mailing addresses; however Safeway did not contact either woman, said the AP. In the complaint, the women seek reimbursement for themselves and others who purchased recalled foods, for the price of the food. They also ask that Safeway make a commitment to use its reward card data to contact consumers in the event of future recalls, said the AP.

Safeway argued that it complies with all legal and regulatory mandates concerning recalls and voluntarily posts recall information on its website and in its stores, reported the AP. Safeway also said that every recall is individually reviewed to determine if other notification measures should be taken and that it has, in some circumstances, used loyalty card information to generate automated or personal calls to consumers concerning recalls, added the AP.

“One size does not fit all,” Safeway said in a statement yesterday, quoted the AP. “Indeed, less than 50 percent of all grocery retailers even have club card programs, thus the ability to contact customers individually is not an industry norm,” it added.

The plaintiffs attorneys argued that Safeway “aggressively” uses the data to tout products and review customer information for sales purposes, but neglects to use its “robust” database to help prevent foodborne illnesses and fatalities, said the AP. CSPI previously notified Safeway in May that it was considering seeking a court order mandating the grocer to advise consumers who purchase recalled foods of recalls if Safeway did not move to do so on its own, said the AP.

According to the CDC, people infected with the Food Poisoning pathogen Salmonella Enteritidis usually experience Symptoms of Salmonella Poisoning beginning 12 to 72 hours after consuming a contaminated food or beverage. Food Poisoning Symptoms include fever, Vomiting, Abdominal Cramps, and diarrhea The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most persons recover without antibiotic treatment; however, the diarrhea can be severe, and hospitalization may be required. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems may have a more serious illness. In these patients, the infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

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