MINNEAPOLIS -- A Minneapolis legal firm has filed the first lawsuit related to an evolving and ongoing listeria outbreak likely linked to precooked chicken products.
The recalled chicken products at risk of listeria contamination come from a variety of food brands that were distributed throughout the United States, including Minnesota and Wisconsin. Late Monday, Minneapolis-based food safety law firm Pritzker Hageman P.A. filed the first known lawsuit of a person hospitalized after consuming products in this far-reaching recall.
The suit names four companies, including Eden Prairie, Minn.-based E.A. Sween Co., as defendants.
The legal action falls against the larger backdrop of a nationwide listeria monocytogenes outbreak still under investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Services (USDA-FSIS) that has so far counted 24 cases spanning 13 states.
Of those cases, 22 have resulted in hospitalizations and two individuals have died. Listeria is a particularly virulent foodborne pathogen. One out of every five people infected with it will die. Listeria is especially dangerous to the elderly, immune-compromised, young children and pregnant women (as it can lead to the loss of an unborn baby).
Two weeks ago, the USDA and Tip Top Poultry issued a massive recall of all ready-to-eat chicken products produced by the Georgia-based manufacturer between Jan. 21 and Sept. 24. Those products -- which include frozen, cooked, diced and shredded chicken -- were sold to an unknown number of other food companies that then packaged and sold the meat as a part of its own products.
"This is massive because it's all production from this one plant for nearly 10 months," said food-safety attorney Fred Pritzker. "I imagine this will end up being hundreds of thousands of pounds."
Since Tip Top's widespread recall was announced, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have issued several recalls in recent weeks for precooked, diced chicken products, including from three Minnesota firms that source meat from Tip Top.
St. Cloud-based Coborn's Inc. is recalling certain chicken salad, pasta, sandwiches, shredded meat and spreads sold at Coborn's, Cash Wise and Marketplace stores. St. Paul Park-based Northern Tier Bakery is recalling its SuperMom's and Hometown Kitchen chicken salad sandwiches sold at Speedway and other convenience stores. And Eden Prairie-based E.A. Sween Co. initiated a recall of chicken salad products under several brands -- including Deli Fresh and Archer Farms, the Target Corp. private label brand.
The CDC has not given an investigation update since before these recalls were initiated and has yet to explicitly identify the source of the outbreak.