Recalled flour products focus of lawsuit

An Alberta law firm has launched a class action lawsuit against Smucker Foods of Canada Corp. following the nationwide food safety recall that involved Robin Hood all-purpose flour milled in Saskatoon.

James H. Brown and Associates of Edmonton filed a statement of claim on March 31 against Smucker Foods of Canada Corp.

Claimants are seeking $25 million in damages to compensate for physical and emotional injury, lost wages and medical costs. The lawsuit also seeks a refund for consumers who bought the bags of the recalled flour.

In late March, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a food recall of Robin Hood All-Purpose flour, citing possible E. coli O121 contamination.

The original recall affected 10 kilogram bags of Robin Hood, All Purpose Flour, Original with a best before date of April 17, 2018 (2018 AL 17.)

Since then, the recall has been expanded to include additional flour products under the Robin Hood, Brodie, Creative Baker and Golden Temple flour brands.

A complete list of recalled products, updated as of April 12, can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/2o7p9tH.

All of the recalled products were manufactured by Ardent Mills.

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Ardent is headquartered in Denver, Colo., but the company operates more than 40 flour mills throughout North America.

Its Canadian operations are located in Mississauga, Burlington and Brampton, Ont., Montreal and Saskatoon.

Western Producer efforts to speak with officials from Ardent Mills were unsuccessful.

However, in a media statement dated April 12, Ardent said it is important that consumers follow public health warnings not to taste raw dough or batter because eating a small amount of uncooked flour can make people sick.

“Flour is a raw agricultural commodity made from wheat, which is grown outdoors where bacteria, microbes, such as E coli 0121, are often present,” the Ardent statement read.

 “The normal milling process does not have a “kill” step to eliminate microbes, such as E. coli 0121, that may originate with the wheat. Common “kill steps” applied during food preparation include thoroughly boiling, baking, roasting, microwaving and frying. These so called “kill steps” will render the microbes or bacteria harmless.”

So far, no deaths have been linked to the recalled flour products but at least 24 people became ill and six people required hospitalization.

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According to the statement of claim from James H Brown and Associates, one plaintiff who consumed a recalled flour product required hospitalization after experiencing nausea, fever and kidney failure.

Symptoms of E. Coli food poisoning normally include nausea, vomiting, mild to sever abdominal cramps and water to bloody diarrhea.

The class action lawsuit against Smucker claims that Robin Hood, a Smucker brand, breached its duty to safely manufacture and test flour produced in Saskatoon.

 The suit also alleges that Robin Hood failed to immediately recall tainted flour after learning that people who had consumed it were becoming ill.

The lawsuit charges that the Robin Hood facility that milled the flour lacked adequate procedures for cleaning equipment and failed to train staff properly for food handling.

None of the allegations has been proven in court.

Officials with Smucker’s were unavailable for comment.

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Contact brian.cross@producer.com

  • David

    I just received my first delivery of Ardent Mills organic white flour…It is from Brampton but of course does not have these bb dates. Being organic, it should of course be milled on a separate line, or after some thorough cleaning process, so I am not assuming MY new flour is contaminated; just wondering in general.)
    Makes me wonder though whether the contamination is limited to these retail packages…isn’t it the same flour packed in 20Kg bags for bakery use that is being recalled in 1 and 10Kg packs? My other question to which I have found no answer anywhere, is HOW is flour contaminated with E. coli? Does it not have to be in contact with some mammalian carrier to be transmitted? And how long can it survive on flour? CFIA website that I get alerts from, has very little info.

    • Harold

      To get an answer to your first question you have to phone or email the company directly. Your second question cannot be answered as yet because the Company likely will not tell you or avoid you to keep it secret. On the other hand there is only a statement of claim and the statement of claim has pointed to improper procedures regarding clean equipment and improper staff training. These improper procedures would have been investigation facts discovered by a government health inspector. When a hospital gets cases of food poisoning a heath inspector investigates the cause. The Health Inspector needs no appointment and he can just walk in at any time during business hours. The health inspector likely ordered the recall of the products between the last known time of non contamination to the present time and then ordered a cleanup and additional staff training. The company is given a copy of the full report and orders and the original is filed in the Health Inspectors office. At this point the company knows exactly the cause but the company will not openly tell you when you call; they don’t have to, and in compliance with the health Inspector they retain their license. (An extreme violation is plant closure) Separate from the company, a Lawyer representing an injured or harmed client goes and gets a copy of the health inspectors report and then creates from that file a statement of claim from the facts; in this case a class action. A statement of claim is filed with the court and then a date is set and the matter goes to trial. The answer to your second question is discovered in detail during the trial but keep in mind there are two separate things. Your answers are to satisfy your personal curiosities but the answers to the court are for a judge to award compensation to an injured or harmed party. Between both parties they know the “How” but you the curious do not. (because the company wouldn’t tell you) From the answers to the court the Judge determines the compensation. The results are public if anyone wants to see them but if media doesn’t want to air the results then likely the public will never know. (this doesn’t stop you personally) If all the judgments of the courts were publicly known then the consumer would loose confidence in the corporations, which is why only the recalls are made public.
      Under the circumstances I would play it safe and return the product in favor of a product produced more recently, which is cheaper than having your product tested for peace of mind. Ardent Mills – food poisoning – has been named so you might contact the company and tell them what you know and have them send you a fresh batch in compensation; the Brand violated a public trust. (assuming that you will trust them) Another remedy is to buy a counter-top mill and grind seed to flour.
      (Isn’t the “mother” corporation behind Smucker’s Cargill?)

      • David

        Thanks for the details. I will try to keep informed but can’t follow this full-time! Ardent mills is a new name for a joint-venture between, yes, Cargill, ConAgra, and CHS, a farmer-owned (according to their website) cooperative that also deals in oil (Cenex fuels), insurance, etc. Would be nice to mill my own flour but I would have to have a table-top mill running all day and then work all night…not possible.