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 bit.ly/2o7p9tH.
All of the recalled products were manufactured by Ardent Mills.
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 un-cooked 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 products but at least 24 people became ill and six people required hospitalization.
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 severe abdominal cramps and watery or 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 have been proven in court.
Officials with Smucker were unavailable for comment.