By P.J. Huffstutter
CHICAGO (Reuters) – A Kentucky woman is suing the U.S. arm of Brazil’s JBS SA, alleging she was hospitalized after consuming ground beef produced by the company that was tainted with Salmonella, according to a lawsuit filed on Friday in Arizona state court.
The lawsuit comes one day after the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that JBS Tolleson Inc was voluntarily pulling 6.5 million pounds of ground beef and other raw beef products that had been shipped to stores across the country. JBS Tolleson is part of JBS USA, the U.S. arm of the world’s largest meatpacking company.
The meat had been processed through JBS’ Arizona plant, the USDA said. The agency later updated the volume of beef products being recalled, to 6.9 million pounds.
JBS USA could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.
The complaint, filed in Superior Court of the state of Arizona in Maricopa County, said Dana Raab bought the JBS-produced ground beef from Sam’s Club in September and made meat loaf with some of it before freezing the rest.
Raab later fell ill, tested positive for Salmonella Newport, and was hospitalized for five days due to severe dehydration and a blocked bile duct, the complaint said.
Salmonella can cause fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain, and can be fatal to young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.
U.S. investigators have identified at least 57 people in 16 states who have become ill due to consuming contaminated ground beef products made from meat traced back to JBS, USDA said.
“I expect that number is going to go up, because one of our clients is from Nevada – and the health department there has told him he is one of more than 200 people they’ve identified as being part of this outbreak,” said attorney William Marler, who is representing Raab.
Officials from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately return calls for comment on Friday.
The USDA had alerted JBS Tolleson Inc’s president Andre Noqueira in 2017 that there were problems at the Arizona plant, according to a USDA document and the Raab lawsuit. Federal inspectors in 2017 accused Noqueira of enabling “egregious” and “inhumane” livestock practices, according to the lawsuit.
“Officials found two ‘mentally incoherent’ cows laying on their side and ‘moaning as if in pain’,” the complaint said. “The inspector asked for the cows to be euthanized but one died in its pen before it could be put down.”
Federal inspectors deferred taking action against the company, according to the USDA document.
(Reporting By P.J. Huffstutter; editing by Caroline Stauffer)