Sunday, February 16, 2014

Farmers beware! Wal-Mart may sue you

Farmers may become more wary about food safety if Wal-Mart wins a lawsuit it has filed against Jensen Farms, suppliers of canteloupe blamed for poisoning 33 people who died of listeriosis in 2011.

Victims’ families and survivors are pursuing a lawsuit that names Wal-Mart, Jensen Farms, middlemen and food-safety auditors they hired.

That’s normal in these kinds of cases, but what’s unusual is that Wal-Mart has decided to sue all of the supply-chain companies and a third-party auditor, says Bill Marler, lawyer acting for 45 victims.

Food-safety communicator Dr. Douglas Powell reports that a complaint filed in Wyoming federal court in late January has Wal-Mart asserting third-party claims against Edinburg, Texas, distributor Frontera Produce Ltd., auditors Primus Group Inc. and Bio Food Safety Inc., and Jensen Farms. Primus subcontracted Bio Food Safety to undertake the on-site audit of the cantaloupe farm, which resulted in a superior rating of 96%.

The third-party complaint is tied to a wrongful death lawsuit brought in Wyoming against Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart by Frederick Lollar, the husband of the deceased woman.