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Lawsuit Filed Against Navitas Naturals Over Recalled Sprouted Chia Seed Powder

A Colorado woman who was hospitalized with a Salmonella Oranienburg infection linked to the nationwide recall of sprouted chia seed powder has filed a lawsuit against Navitas Naturals of Novato, CA, which manufactures and sells the product.

Carolyn Marie Shirley of Fort Collins, CO, is being represented by Marler Clark, the Seattle-based food safety law firm, and by co-counsel John Riley of Montgomery Little & Soran, PC, of Greenwood Village, CO. (Bill Marler of Marler Clark is the publisher of Food Safety News.)

“Many people think that healthy foods are not susceptible to Salmonella outbreaks, but that is just not true,” said Marler, who has been working to help improve food safety standards since representing victims of the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak in the early 1990s. “Healthy foods are just as prone to Salmonella and E. coli as milk and eggs,” he added.

Shirley is one of at least 65 people in the U.S. and Canada who have been sickened by several brands of the powdered chia seed product, which were recently been recalled in both countries. She became ill on or about March 14, 2014, after consuming Navitas Naturals chia seed powder purchased at her local Sprouts Farmer’s Market, which was subject to the recent recall.

Soon after consuming the chia seed powder, Shirley began began suffering from a gastrointestinal illness. Her condition worsened daily until she required hospitalization. While hospitalized, she tested positive for Salmonella Oranienburg. The main symptoms of Salmonella infection include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. At the time her complaint was filed against Navitas Naturals on Thursday, she was still recovering from the Salmonella infection.

Salmonella is transmitted by food, water, or surfaces that have been contaminated with the feces of an infected animal or person. Many animals carry Salmonella, yet do not get sick. Salmonella can also be found in unpasteurized egg and milk products. It is commonly transmitted via the fecal-oral route from one infected person to another. Symptoms (which typically develop six to 72 hours after infection) may be mild, and an infected person can continue to carry Salmonella for weeks after symptoms have subsided.

The best ways to prevent the spread of this illness are to avoid preparing food for others while ill, thoroughly cooking meat and egg products, not consuming unpasteurized eggs and milk products, and washing hands, especially after using the bathroom and before handling or preparing food.

© Food Safety News
  • Katie

    Were any chia seeds effected in this recall?

  • Bill Pilacinski

    Perhaps I’m just a too-old scientist, but I repeatedly see Food Safety News capitalize the species portion of an organism’s scientific name, in this case, Oranienburg. I was taught that the genus portion is capitalized, i.e., Salmonella, but the species portion, oranienburg, is not. Also, both to be italicized.

    • Anonymous

      You are correct that Salmonella is the genus, but Oranienburg is the serotype, not species.

      I am not sure what the rules are with respect to serotypes, but I have always seen them capitalized.

  • Peter

    Suing every chance you get….the American way. Did she eat nothing but these Chia seeds for a few days? How can you even pinpoint this.

    • Gene

      This is actually relatively easy. The presence of the Salmonella is detected in the patients system and after also detecting it in the food product, final traceability is done by DNA fingerprinting for an exact match. As other articles will attest the hard part occurs when the food product itself is derived from multiple sources, (hamburger e.g.). But it is not at all likely that the patient ate someting else to contract the illness because they can establish a clear cause and effect timeline with the DNA fingerprinting.