Bloomberg News

Wal-Mart Sued by Michigan Mother Over Kids’ Salmonella

August 23, 2012

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was sued by a Michigan mother who claims her two children contracted salmonella bacterial infections after eating cantaloupes bought at the company’s Battle Creek store.

Angela Compton, 33, of Battle Creek is seeking at least $25,000 in damages from Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, according to a state court complaint she filed yesterday on behalf of her children.

At least two deaths and 178 illnesses in 21 states have been linked to the salmonella outbreak, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said yesterday. The FDA said it traced the illnesses, the second such contagion in the U.S. two years, to Chamberlain Farm Produce Inc. in Owensville, Indiana. The fruit went to market from June 21 to Aug. 16, according to the FDA.

“I would have expected farmers, distributors and retailers to have better food safety procedures in place this year to prevent another cantaloupe-related outbreak from happening,” the Comptons’ lawyer, Bill Marler, said in a statement announcing the Calhoun County, Michigan, court filing.

Timothy Chamberlain, who said he owns the Owensville farm, declined on Aug. 21 to comment on the outbreak in interview.

Cantaloupes sold by Wal-Mart’s Battle Creek store did not come from the Indiana farm, Randy Hargrove, a spokesman for the company, said in a telephone interview today.

Some Sold

In the same interview, Hargrove’s colleague, Dianna Gee said that while the company doesn’t buy from the Owensville farm, one of its suppliers shipped a small quantity of cantaloupes from the farm to Wal-Mart stores outside Michigan.

Those melons, which Gee said comprised fewer than 1 percent of the cantaloupes sold by Wal-Mart, were identified and removed from the company’s stores.

Gee said she did not know if any had been sold.

Compton, a child-care provider, said in a telephone interview that her daughters became ill after eating cantaloupe last month. Medical tests confirmed they had been sickened by salmonella, she said. Both have recovered.

One child, Mariah, 10, was hospitalized for four days, Compton said.

“She had bad abdominal pains, gas, fever and needed IV fluids,” Compton said. “It was bad. They were the sickest I’ve ever seen a kid.”

The case is Compton as Guardian v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT:US), 12-2648, Calhoun County, Michigan, Circuit Court (Battle Creek).

To contact the reporters on this story: Stephanie Armour in Washington at sarmour@bloomberg.net; Andrew Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Romaine Bostick at rbostick@bloomberg.net; Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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