Trader Joe’s sued after E. coli outbreaks

Trader Joe's, a grocery chain beloved by penny-pinchers, is under fire after some of its customers allegedly contracted E. coli infections from packaged salads.

Attorney Bill Marler is representing six people who claim they fell ill after buying food at the chain, known for gourmet products like organic strawberry lemonade and organic brown rice & quinoa fusilli pasta. Thirty-three people from four states were confirmed to have contracted E. coli infections, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention citing Glass Onion salads and wraps sold at Trader Joe's as the most likely culprit.

"The pain was the worst pain I've ever felt ever in my life," Ginny Scoumperdis, told CBS News. She spent three days in the hospital in October after she ate a Mexicali salad she bought at Trader Joe's.

The legal action comes after Marler's firm, Marler Clark, sued Glass Onion on behalf of his clients, with Trader Joe's now added as a defendant. Trader Joe's declined to comment and Glass Onion did not immediately return a request for comment.

While most people recover after five to 10 days, other victims report long-term problems. One woman, profiled in The New York Times in 2009, was even left paralyzed after contracting a severe illness from E. coli that was in a hamburger. One of the plaintiffs in Marler Clark's lawsuit suffered from hemolytic-uremic syndrome, which can lead to kidney failure and central nervous system impairment, the law firm said.

The lawsuits come after Marler Clark tried and failed to engage Glass Onion, and later Trader Joe's, in settlement discussions, Marler told CBS MoneyWatch.

"A retailer is legally responsible for what they sell in a grocery store," Marler said. "It's a common thing that's been happening in the last decade, where grocery stores and manufacturers, as soon as there's a problem, they try to push it off on someone else. Grocery stores should take care of their customers."

As for Scoumperdis, she told CBS News she still suffers from pain. "No matter what I eat, I'm always guaranteed to have a stomach ache," she said.

While Scoumperdis said she still shops at Trader Joe's, she added that she won't buy its salads. "I was totally surprised because I think of Trader Joe's as one of those companies that is very careful and caring about what they sell to the public," she said.

  • Aimee Picchi

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