A federal complaint is filed against a Blakely plant - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

A federal complaint is filed against a Blakely plant

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

January 22, 2009

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - There is now a federal lawsuit over the Salmonella outbreak possibly tied to peanut butter from a plant here in South Georgia.

The family of a seven year old Vermont boy hospitalized with Salmonella poisoning filed the suit in Albany federal court against Peanut Corporation of America. Their Blakely plant is possibly linked to a Salmonella outbreak that's sickened hundreds nationwide. The boy spent six days in the hospital. The suit claims a tainted pack of of peanut butter crackers made him sick.

Seven year old Chris Meunier is back home in Vermont, in front of his computer, doing much better than he was a month ago when he was hospitalized for six days with Salmonella poisoning. "It was agonizing, it was scary," said Gabrielle Meunier.

"It was a feeling of helplessness, every 15 or 20 minutes these cramps would cause him to run to the bathroom," said Daryl Meunier.

Now a lawsuit claims, doctors traced his illness to a pack of peanut butter crackers made with product from the Blakely, Georgia plant. The family hired Seattle Attorney William Marler and Albany Attorney Patrick Flynn who filed a lawsuit this week.

"They have a sick child who suffered illnesses, they have substantial medical bills, they're going to have continuing medical bills," said Attorney Patrick Flynn, Flynn Peeler & Phillips.

Bills shared by 486 others from 43 states also sickened by Salmonella. Six have died and Patrick Flynn expects he'll file more complaints against Peanut Corporation of America.

"In fact, I'm pretty certain there will be more lawsuits to follow," said Flynn.

Both the family and attorney's hope the suit will be a vehicle for change, Georgia's Agriculture Commissioner told us something more must be done.

"Less than two years ago we were talking about the same thing involving another plant right up the road from here again so, it should be alarming to local government, it should be alarming to the state government more importantly the federal government," said Flynn.

"This makes us have to reprioritize the amount of concern we give on different products. We're going to work much closer with the products that have a health risk than we've ever worked in the past with the limited number of staff that we have," said Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin.

Lawyers say the lawsuit may help answer questions like what can be done in the future to prevent it from happening again.

Thursday Peanut Corporation of America spokesman George Clarke said the company had no comment on the lawsuit.

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