The company sold Austin and Keebler brand crackers that contained peanut paste supplied by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) from 2007, the suit claims. Peanut products sold by the PCA were found to be contaminated with salmonella in January last year. A resulting salmonella outbreak was linked to 714 reported illnesses and nine deaths across 46 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the lawsuit claims “approximately 22,500 people” were sickened by the outbreak.
Samuel Arcure said he filed the suit in order to change the Kellogg Company’s business practices, rather than for health effects. Filed by attorney Brian W. Smith, the lawsuit seeks class action status.
"It's to try to make Kellogg responsible or accountable for not having food safety measures in place,” Smith was quoted by News-Press as saying. “This is one step toward policing these companies, especially Kellogg – a huge company – to make sure they're putting safe products on the shelves."
Kellogg’s was among the first companies to issue voluntary product recalls in connection with the salmonella contamination at PCA’s Georgia plant. It has said it intends to vigorously defend itself against the lawsuit.
The suit says: “Kellogg’s private recalls of its contaminated or potentially contaminated products are inadequate as they only offer relief to Class members who manage to learn of the recalls and meet the unreasonable conditions Kellogg has imposed and even then provide only limited and inadequate relief.”
The lawsuit also alleges that by using inspectors who were paid by the PCA, Kellogg failed to properly inspect the ingredients used in its products to ensure they were safe for consumption and not contaminated with salmonella. It claims that Kellogg’s misrepresents the health and nutrition messages on its website, that its food safety procedures are inadequate, and that it should have known its products could have been contaminated with salmonella.
It also claims that there have been numerous reports of salmonella caused by the consumption of Kellogg’s Austin brand products across the country, including in California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, New York, Washington and Florida.
Kellogg Company spokesperson Kris Charles said that the company handled the recall “thoroughly and responsibly”, that it offered refunds to every customer who requested one and that it provided widely publicized information about the recall via the internet and a toll-free number.
She said in a statement: “Last year, Kellogg Company recalled select products as soon as we learned about tainted peanut ingredient lots produced by Peanut Corporate of America. …We will vigorously defend our Company against the lawsuit.”