Sheetz Stores Settle Tomato Salmonella Lawsuit

A case filed by Sheetz Inc. over how one of its suppliers owed money for providing Sheetz with <"">Salmonella tainted tomatoes from July 2004, has reached a settlement, said the Altoona Mirror.

It was expected that the jury would spend the bulk of this week hearing the case between Sheetz and Coronet Foods Inc. the supplier, said the Altoona Mirror. Coronet is located in Wheeling, West Virginia. The trial was called off after the judge handling the case was told of the out-of-court settlement, which was received Friday and is confidential, reported the Altoona News. Although the terms of the settlement remain confidential, Sheetz did acknowledge that it suffered damages in excess of $11 million, the Altoona Mirror added.

Some Salmonella bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, largely due to the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of feed animals. Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstance, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis.

Salmonella poisoning can also lead to Reiter’s Syndrome, a difficult-to-treat reactive arthritis that is characterized by severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination.

Salmonella is usually found in food contaminated with animal feces and is a group of bacteria that passes from the feces of people or animals to other people or animals, causing contamination when food is improperly stored or handled and when preparers do not wash their hands or sanitize implements involved in food storage. Salmonella is the most frequently reported cause of food-related outbreaks of stomach illness worldwide.

Coronet admitted its liability in the case and acknowledged that it provided Salmonella-tainted tomatoes to a number of Sheetz’ 330 stores located in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina at the times that the outbreak began, said Food Safety News. Over 425 people fell ill from all of those states with food poisoning illnesses linked to tainted tomatoes.

Originally the lawsuit was filed in Blair County by Max C. Anslinger, a consumer who said he fell ill after eating some of the tomatoes, said the Altoona Mirror. The lawsuit was filed against Sheet and Coronet. Sheetz, said the Altoona Mirror, worked to settle with its customers, but the lawsuit continued while Sheetz and Coronet were involved with an array of other businesses in the lawsuit.

Because the specific origin of the tainted vegetables was never determined, the civil charges were dismissed, said the Altoona Mirror. Ultimately, the lawsuit was about what Coronet—which declared bankruptcy in 2004—owed Sheetz.

Sheetz is considering an appeal regarding the ruling that dismissed the lawsuits against tomato growers now that the Coronet trial has been settled added the Altoona Mirror.

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