Attorney Ron Simon, who specializes in representing people injured by tainted food products, is now wading through a massive number of calls from people who believe they may have consumed Listeria-contaminated Blue Bell products.
“We have been besieged by calls from people who got sick after eating Blue Bell products during the Listeria outbreak,” says Simon, from Ron Simon & Associates in Houston, Texas.
“We’ve received over 500 calls so far and we are just beginning to evaluate the cases.”
Listeriosis is one of the more deadly foodborne pathogens. Seniors, pregnant women and babies, as well as persons with weakened immune systems, are particularly vulnerable.
Listeria causes gastrointestinal problems, fever, muscle aches and is usually accompanied by diarrhea. Symptoms occur sometimes days after consuming Listeria-contaminated food, but it may also take a few weeks for symptoms to appear.
So far, there are 10 confirmed cases of Listeriosis across four states (Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona) linked to the Blue Bell outbreak, with three confirmed deaths. All of the deaths were in Kansas.
Living organisms, including bacteria like Listeria, have an identifiable “genetic fingerprint.” By comparing the Listeria found in the Blue Bell products to the Listeria bacteria from people who were sickened or died as a result of Listeriosis, the CDC was able to trace the food contamination back to Blue Bell Creameries.
The FDA, together with the CDC, is currently conducting what is described as “a complex and ongoing multiple outbreak investigation of Listeriosis occurring over several years.”
On May 7, 2015, the FDA released inspection reports from Blue Bell plants in Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas.
The reports make note of unsanitary food-handling conditions in the plant, chipped ceiling paint directly above food manufacturing areas, improper hand-washing procedures, improper and soiled outer garments worn by employees, as well as failure to perform proper testing of surfaces for potential foodborne pathogens.
Consumers are being advised not to consume any Blue Bell brand products and retailers have been told to refrain from selling the products.
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“We put a lot of trust in these food companies,” says Simon, who represented more than 700 people in the ConAgra tainted Peter Pan peanut butter salmonella outbreak. “You can’t see, smell or taste any of these pathogens. So we are relying on the food companies to test the produce to make these products safe before they get to us. When they fail to do that, there is a breach of trust and the consumer gets angry.”