Florida consumers often hear of food contamination occurring in fresh produce, such as lettuce and sprouts. Yet even frozen fruits and vegetables can become contaminated with bacteria that could potentially make many people seriously ill.
Recently, a frozen berry mix produced by Townsend Farms has sickened at least 87 people, some of whom were hospitalized. The victims were diagnosed with a contagious form of Hepatitis A, which can affect the liver. Food could become contaminated with Hepatitis A through unhygienic food handling or contaminated water.
A number of the victims reported having purchased the contaminated frozen fruit at Costco stores. Costco has since pulled the product from their store shelves and has been notifying customers of the issue. The Center for Disease Control has issued a warning about the tainted berries, and Townsend Farms has since recalled the product. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration is inspecting the facilities where the berry mix was manufactured, although it is possible the fruit was contaminated prior to being handled by the plant. The company believes that pomegranate seeds from Turkey may have been the source of the contamination.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A include jaundice, abdominal pain and fatigue. The illness can last weeks or even months. However, the illness can be prevented through proper sanitation techniques, such as thorough hand-washing. Unfortunately, the failure to do this can not only prompt food recalls but could even lead to a product liability lawsuit by those made ill from the contaminated products.
Many times an injured consumer can bring such a lawsuit under a theory of strict liability. Through strict liability, the manufacturer or seller of a contaminated food product can be found liable even absent a showing of negligence. This is usually allowable as it is neither possible nor expected for consumers to determine whether a food product was safely handled prior to its packaging and sale.
Although food recalls can prevent others from becoming ill from tainted foods, those already made ill may need compensation for medical bills and other expenses. A product liability suit is just one way individual consumers can recover financially for the harms they suffered due to the negligence of another party.
Source: FoxNews.com, "Hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen berry mix sickens 87," June 12, 2013