A New York student missed his first few days at college because a Salmonella infection from Turkish pine nuts put him in the hospital instead.    

Sean McGuirk has now  become the first to bring legal action against American Pistachio Commodity Corp, doing business as Sunrise Commodities in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, which has recalled more than 21,000 pounds of pine nuts it distributed in bulk to various food vendors and sold at Wegmans grocery stores and other retailers. Wegmans Food Markets has recalled 5,000 pounds of the pine nuts.

On Nov. 4, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to consumers not to eat Turkish pine nuts imported by Sunrise Commodities. To date, the pine nuts are responsible for at least 42 illnesses in five states.

The lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court for Western Washington. 

McGuirk, who is represented by Rochester attorney Paul V. Nunes and Seattle attorney Bill Marler (publisher of Food Safety News), says in the complaint that his mother purchased the Turkish pine nuts from a local Wegman’s store on Aug. 24 and he ate some of them four days later in a pasta dish.

He became ill on Sept. 3, and his condition worsened, causing him to miss classes. He was admitted to the  hospital on Sept. 9 and underwent treatment for 48 hours. Lab tests showed that he was infected with Salmonella that was a genetic match to the outbreak strain.

Although he’s been released from the hospital, McGuirk has yet to make a full recovery.

“While food companies need to ensure the safety of all the products they sell, producers and distributers should be especially vigilant when it comes to ready-to-eat foods such as pine nuts,” said Marler, McGuirk’s attorney. “I am hopeful that American Pistachio will address this issue directly and proactively by not only making sure that the victims of this outbreak are compensated for their medical expenses, but by reevaluating their food safety procedures for the future.”