The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called peanut butter substitute I.M. Healthy Original Creamy SoyNut Butter the likely root of E. coli cases in five different states on Thursday. The SoyNut Butter Company initiated a recall Friday and expanded it Sunday.
By Monday, the first lawsuit hit the SoyNut Butter Company.
Mosby and Erin Simmons, the California parents of an 8-year-old allegedly hospitalized with E. coli after eating the product, filed suit against Illinois-based SoyNut Butter Co. in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The suit is suing the company for product liability, negligence and breach of implied warranty. When the Herald called the SoyNut Butter Company’s media line Monday, the company refused to comment on the suit.
The Simmonses contend their son spent 21 days in Stanford Children’s Hospital with an E. coli infection after regularly eating I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter. Also, the suit blames the infection on the younger Simmons developing hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a kidney condition that requires dialysis and a blood transfusion. According to the CDC, four of the 12 people infected developed HUS.
The National Kidney Foundation’s page on HUS says, “Most patients who need dialysis will recover kidney function and ultimately be able to discontinue dialysis treatment.”
But, it notes, “even with full recovery, there is the chance for high blood pressure or other kidney problems in the years ahead.”
Both the FDA’s recall notice and announcement of the outbreak's investigation mention HUS as a possible consequence of E. coli infection. Both also mention that nine infected people interviewed all said they either consumed I.M. Healthy Original Creamy SoyNut Butter at home or attended childcare centers where it was served.
The peanut butter substitute is distributed to retail outlets, childcare centers and schools in multiple states as well as being available via mail order.
100 percent of E. coli infected people who told the CDC they ate or were exposed to I.M. Healthy Original Creamy SoyNut Butter prior to becoming sick — nine out of nine.
6 percent of E. coli infected people who told the CDC during past outbreak investigations they ate a ground nut butter or spread other than peanut butter.
Of the 12 infected people in Arizona, California, New Jersey, Maryland and Oregon in the E. coli outbreak, 11 are children.
One of the law firms the Simmons family hired, Marler Clark, might be more linked to E. coli outbreaks than any other law firm. In fact, the firm’s roots go back to the landmark 1993 Jack in the Box hamburger chain E. coli case. Bill Marler made his name as the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, who won a $15.6 million judgment; Bruce Clark worked for the defense.