A team of E. coli food poisoning lawyers from PritzkerHageman Attorneys met in Minneapolis today to urge all restaurants, food co-ops, grocery stores, deli operators, food trucks, lunch counters and other retailers to place warning labels on any food item containing raw sprouts. The attorneys reissued their nationwide call for mandatory consumer warnings on raw sprouts in the wake of two multi-state outbreaks in the first two months of 2016. One of the sprout outbreaks involves toxic E. coli and the other involves Salmonella.
“We are calling for a mandatory consumer warning any place where raw sprouts are sold,’’ said attorney Fred Pritzker, founder and president of the firm, one of the very few U.S. law firms practicing extensively in the area of foodborne illness litigation.
Joined by fellow lawyers Brendan Flaherty and Ryan Osterholm, the three food safety advocates insisted that raw sprouts carry inherent contamination risks — especially dangerous for pregnant women, small children, older adults and others, including cancer patients, whose immune systems are compromised or underdeveloped.
Flaherty said that since 1996, the CDC has tracked 30 multi-state outbreaks of food poisoning linked to contaminated raw sprouts. What makes sprouts so dangerous is that they are primarily eaten raw, with no cooking process to kill the bacteria.
Even careful growers of alfalfa spouts, bean sprouts, onion sprouts, mung bean sprouts and radish sprouts have been linked to past food poisoning outbreaks. Pritzker said more outbreaks are inevitable because contamination in or on sprout seeds is difficult to detect and the organisms multiply many fold in the warm and humid growing conditions.
“It’s a product that is prone to kill and harm people on an ongoing basis,’’ Pritzker said.
“When a product is inherently dangerous, we need to put up warning signs,’’ Flaherty said.
Jack & the Green Sprouts Lawsuit
Pritzker, Flaherty, and Osterholm said case patients in bona fide sprout outbreaks have standing to sue sprout growers and retailers. They all bear responsibility for making sure the food they sell is wholesome and free of human pathogens.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, seven Minnesotans and two residents of Wisconsin have been sickened this year in an E. coli O157 outbreak associated with Jack & the Green Sprouts alfalfa sprouts sold in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Greater Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin. The sprouts producer, based in River Falls, Wisconsin, recalled all of its alfalfa and alfalfa onion sprout products on February 25. Two people infected by the pathogenic bacteria were hospitalized and public health and agriculture officials from Minnesota, Wisconsin, the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC are investigating.
Earlier this year, the CDC announced a Salmonella Muenchen outbreak in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania linked to alfalfa sprouts produced by Sweetwater Farms of Inman, Kansas. PritzkerHageman is a national firm and has welcomed case patients from both outbreaks to contact the firm for free case reviews.
“We’ve been involved on the side of victims in every major food poisoning outbreak over the past 15 years,’’ Pritzker said. “We battle for our clients and hold the companies responsible.’’