Seven-year-old Christopher Meunier spent nearly a week in the hospital late last year after eating some peanut butter crackers contaminated with salmonella. The boy’s parents, Gabrielle and Daryl Meunier of Burlington, Vermont, are now suing the Peanut Corporation of America for an undisclosed amount of money.
The particular strain of salmonella that sickened the boy is the same strain as the salmonella tied to Peanut Corporation’s manufacturing facility in Blakely, Georgia. Investigators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration identified the strain as Salmonella Typhimurium. The salmonella found in the peanut butter products was one of four different strains detected in the factory.
The salmonella outbreak has sparked one of the largest and most complicated food safety recalls in U.S. history. Contaminated peanut products from the Peanut Corporation were used as ingredients in hundreds of other products such as crackers, cookies, candy, cake, and ice cream. The tainted peanut butter was also distributed to long-term care facilities, cafeterias, and other institutions. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) blames the contamination for more than 500 reported illnesses and 8 deaths across the country and Canada.
The attorney representing the Meuniers filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Georgia.
The peanut plant at the root of the salmonella problems has a record of unsanitary conditions, according to government inspection records. The storage cooler is reported to have mold growing on the ceiling and walls and the plant has had a major roach infestation. Salmonella was found in the plant’s production line late last September, yet no measures were taken to clean the infected area.
Peanut Corp. had its peanut products re-tested at different labs when original test results came back positive for salmonella. Once negative test results were obtained, the company shipped the products out. Because of these actions, some members of Congress believe those responsible should face criminal charges.
Gabrielle Meunier expressed her alarm over the news about the salmonella outbreak. “I am absolutely so dismayed, so saddened that this could happen,” she told the Burlington Free Press.
In reference to the system that state and local governments have in place to enforce food safety, Meunier said “I know the process doesn’t work.”
“Nobody is going to tell us the truth until it becomes one big court matter,” she told the Burlington Free Press.
Four illnesses linked to the salmonella outbreak were in Vermont.