The first lawsuit has been filed against Red Lobster and A&W Fresh Produce on behalf of a client sickened with Salmonella food poisoning after eating cucumbers distributed by A&W at that restaurant. The recalled cucumbers were imported from Mexico and distributed by Andrew & Williams Fresh Produce of California. This may become part of a class action lawsuit.
The client is part of a large multistate outbreak of people sickened with Salmonella infections after eating slicer, or American cucumbers grown and by Rancho Don Juanito in Mexico. At least 285 people (perhaps 291, if case counts by state are more accurate) are sick in 27 states.
The minor client ate at a Red Lobster restaurant in Minnesota in early August. Two days later, which is right in the window of the Salmonella infection incubation period, he started suffering from stomach cramps and diarrhea. He continued to get sicker until he visited a doctor and a stool culture confirmed he was suffering from a Salmonella infection.
The Minnesota Department of Health tested the sample and found that the strain of Salmonella that made him sick was Salmonella Poona, with a pulsed field-gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern that matched one of the outbreak strains. MDH then started an investigation that revealed 12 people in Minnesota were part of the outbreak. Ten of the twelve ate cucumbers at Red Lobster restaurants around the state. Six of those twelve patients have been hospitalized.
MDH also confirmed that Red Lobster restaurants had received and served the Andrew & Williamson “Limited Edition” slicer cucumbers that have been linked to the nationwide outbreak. These cucumbers were sold to grocery stores in several states and to restaurants that are customers of the San Diego facility.
One of the issues of a Salmonella infection, that is addressed in the lawsuit, is that long term consequences of this type of illness can be serious and debilitating. Salmonella food poisoning patients can develop Reiter’s syndrome, also known as reactive arthritis, later in life. This infection can also lead to heart problems, irritable bowel syndrome, and immunological deficiencies, even if the patient recovers without medical treatment.
If you ate cucumbers, whether purchased at a grocery store or eaten in a salad at a restaurant, since July 2015 and have suffered the symptoms of a Salmonella infection, please see your doctor. Stool tests can determine if your illness is linked to this larger outbreak.
The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include diarrhea, which may be bloody, fever, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms usually begin two to seventy-two hours after exposure to the pathogenic bacteria. Most people get better within about a week, but some, including children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems and chronic illnesses, need medical attention and may need to be hospitalized.
In fact, the hospitalization rate in this outbreak has been 33%, which is 13% higher than the normal rate of 20% for Salmonella infections. That may be because so many of those sickened in this outbreak are children, or it may be that the Salmonella Poona strain or strains is resistant to antibiotics.
The cucumbers were sold to distributors in these states: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. They may have been sold in other states as well. The case count of the outbreak is as follows: Alaska (8), Arizona (60), Arkansas (6), California (51), Colorado (14), Idaho (8), Illinois (5), Kansas (1), Louisiana (3), Minnesota (12), Missouri (7), Montana (11), Nebraska (2), Nevada (7), New Mexico (15), New York (4), North Dakota (1), Ohio (2), Oklahoma (5), Oregon (3), South Carolina (6), Texas (9), Utah (30), Virginia (1), Washington (9), Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming (3).
According to the Andrew & Williamson website, their customers include In-N-Out Burgers, Save Mart Supermarkets, Sam’s Club, The Capital Grille, United Supermarkets, Albertson’s, H-E-B, Safeway, Kroger, Olive Garden, Costco, Red Lobster, Walmart, and Fresh & Easy. The recalled cucumbers may or may not have been sold at those outlets. We will know more when the retail distribution list is released, and we’ll let you know.