Consumers start class action against Walmart, Sam’s Club and Taylor Farms

US romaine lettuce farmers frustrated by government response to E. coli outbreak

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told CBS This Morning that the risk of new E. coli infections from tainted romaine lettuce is low, but that the number of cases will rise. That's because the CDC says older infections will likely be linked to the same strain of bacteria originating in Arizona. So far, 149 people in 29 states became sick, now including Texas. One person has died.

The FDA has identified one farm in Yuma that supplied the lettuce that made 8 prisoners in Alaska sick. But tracing the source is still extremely difficult.

John Boelts, lettuce grower: "The industry took it upon ourselves to impose rules, voluntary rules that growers and shippers adhere to.”

As reported on, in 2006, an E. coli outbreak traced back to spinach from California claimed 3 lives and made nearly 200 people sick. Boelts said the industry lost millions of dollars. In the current situation, by the time the Food and Drug Administration traced this outbreak back to romaine lettuce in Yuma, the growing season was over. Farmers are frustrated that investigators didn't hit the ground sooner.

Meanwhile, US consumers slapped Walmart, Sam’s Club and Taylor Farms with a class action this Monday night, for selling E. coli-tainted lettuce. Lead plaintiff Rick Musgrave claims Taylor Farms and Walmart exposed tens of thousands of consumers to tainted romaine lettuce and refused to recall all of the potentially contaminated produce.

Taylor Farms, based in Salinas, California, produces dozens of fresh produce products, including ready-made salad packs that feature romaine lettuce. It sells those salad packs and fresh greens at Walmart and Sam’s Club stores across the country.

Musgrave says he and his wife became violently ill after eating romaine lettuce they purchased at a Walmart in Martinez. Co-plaintiff Margaret Grey says she also fell ill after eating romaine lettuce she bought at a Sam’s Club in Oxnard, California.

Sam’s Club recalled seven Taylor Farms romaine lettuce products on April 15. All of those products were “ready to eat” pre-packaged salads, according to the lawsuit. Walmart posted a notice about the E. coli contamination on its website but failed to offer refunds or post any notices about the contamination in its stores, according to the complaint.

“As a result of defendants processing, manufacturing, distributing and selling Taylor Farms’ products with romaine lettuce without taking proper precautions, defendants placed in the stream of commerce products that are unusable, unsafe, and have caused purchasers and consumers of those products to suffer or potentially suffer illness, as well as the loss of monies,” the 26-page complaint states.

The plaintiffs seek nationwide class certification, punitive damages, restitution and legal costs. Taylor Farms and Walmart have not responded as of yet.

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