The lawsuit was filed in Oregon Federal District Court in Portland by Seattle-based Marler Clark. The complaint states the child ate ground turkey produced and distributed by Cargill as part of a spaghetti and meat balls dinner her father prepared in early June. By June 10, the child had developed severe diarrhea and a very high fever. By June 15, doctors determined Salmonella Heidelberg had entered the child’s bloodstream, and she was taken to a local hospital, where she was treated.
Bill Marler, the family’s attorney, said Cargill owes it to the family to take responsibility for its actions. “Most of us cannot fathom the helplessness a parent feels watching as their 10-month-old fights it out with a life-threatening illness,” said Marler, who has litigated numerous foodborne illness cases against Cargill.
Public health officials have identified 107 illnesses and at least one death that can be linked to the consumption of ground turkey produced by Cargill. On July 29, the company recalled 36 million lbs. of ground turkey suspected of being contaminated with Salmonella Heidelberg.
“The illness and/or hospitalization of any person/child is a serious event and a cause for concern,” Mike Martin, Cargill director of communications, told MEATPOULTRY.com. “Safety is always a top priority at Cargill. For anyone who may have become ill from eating ground turkey produced by Cargill, we are sorry.”
As a result of the Salmonella situation believed to have caused illnesses, the company has developed an enhanced food-safety plan for Springdale ground turkey production, which has been approved by the US Department of Agriculture.
“We assessed our HACCP plan for Springdale and added a CCP for antibacterial technology in the bird chilling system, and increased the level of antibacterial by 25 percent,” Martin said. “We have also added two additional antibacterial treatments to the harvest line.
“While the ground turkey room was not in operation, we disassembled and steam cleaned equipment,” he added. “We are also requiring our Springdale suppliers to have a CCP similar to Cargill's food-safety plan, including a CCP using an antibacterial technology at the harvest stage.
“We have also modified our ongoing sampling and testing program so that we can continuously measure our performance against prescribed standards, and act immediately as soon as there is any indication that we are not meeting our goals,” Martin continued.
“We are creating an independent panel of food safety, animal health and microbiology experts to review and validate our actions and make additional recommendations. We will apply best practices and learnings to out other turkey processing facilities. We will share our best practices and learnings with the industry. We will explore options that can be applied to the live animal portion of the business,” he concluded.