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Infected cantaloupes in salmonella have sickened more than a hundred Canadians. (Archive photo)
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A An Ontario woman who fell ill after eating cantaloupe is the lead plaintiff in a second proposed class action over salmonella infections linked to cantaloupes across the country.
According to a declaration filed in the Manitoba Court of King's Bench, Michele Lee Gagne, a resident of Sarnia, Ontario, suffered abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting in early November after eating cantaloupe. which she claimed was contaminated with salmonella.
The combination of these symptoms is rare in the plaintiff, particularly vomiting, the document filed by the firm indicates of Siskinds Law Firm, based in London, Ontario, on December 22. The firm said there were strategic reasons for filing the case in Manitoba, but did not provide further details.
A proposed class action regarding contaminated cantaloupes was filed in Quebec earlier in December, while a third is underway in British Columbia.
The complaint filed in Manitoba names the Mexican company Malichita, which grew the melons, and two American companies — Trufresh in Nogales, Arizona, and Dulcinea in Los Angeles — which imported and distributed the fruit for sale in Canada and elsewhere.
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It is alleged that the three defendants were negligent in failing to test the cantaloupes before they reached stores or restaurants, in violation of consumer protection laws.
The claims have not been adjudicated in court, and the proposed class actions must be certified through the courts to move forward.
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In Canada, seven people have died from salmonella linked to cantaloupes, and there have been 164 laboratory-confirmed cases in eight provinces, including 111 in Quebec, the Public Health Agency of Canada said in its latest updated last month.
The organization says the majority of people who have fallen ill are elderly 5 years or younger, and 65 years and older.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has issued warnings for the first time recall on November 1, which were later expanded to include Malichita and Rudy brand cantaloupes, as well as various types of pre-cut cantaloupes and fruit trays sold in stores.
Bridget Moran, Ms. Gagne's lawyer, said the 52-year-old was sick for 10 days after eating cantaloupe.
She said the three defendants have not yet received court documents. They may not need to file statements of defense until the trial is certified, if that happens, Ms. Moran noted.
Dulcinea did not respond to a request for comment and representatives for Malichita did not respond to a request for comment ;could not be contacted.
Rafael Roiz, president and CEO of Trufresh, said he could not comment on the matter due to the ongoing legal action. But in a statement to The Canadian Press, he expressed his sympathy to those affected by the salmonella epidemic.
We are aware that no words can comfort the people and their families who have felt the most great impact, we can read in the declaration. We continue to work with our suppliers, customers and health authorities to investigate how the contamination may have occurred.
Any person in Canada who became ill or died from contaminated cantaloupes could be ' register to be part of the class action lawsuit filed in Manitoba, said Ms. Moran.
Saro Turner, a Vancouver-based lawyer for Slater Vecchio, the law firm that filed the proposed class action in Quebec, said the firm is also expected to file a class action in British Columbia later this month, so that people from elsewhere in the country can participate.
The Quebec suit, which names Malichita and Trufresh as defendants, is limited to cases of contaminated cantaloupes in that province . She alleges that a Montrealer spent nearly a week in hospital in November with a confirmed salmonella infection after eating cantaloupes.
Siyun Wang, associate professor of food safety engineering at the University of British Columbia, explained that cantaloupe is grown on bushes and is particularly vulnerable to salmonella carried by wild animals, such as reptiles whose excrement can contaminate the soil.
A major characteristic of salmonella, compared to many other foodborne pathogens that make people sick, is that it can be carried by a very wide variety of hosts, she detailed, comparing it to
E.< /em> coli, which is mainly carried by livestock.
Salmonella is also a more robust pathogen that can survive in very dry conditions and tends to stay stuck to the rough crust of the cantaloupes.
Consumers should wash melons thoroughly before eating them, but this is primarily the responsibility of the product suppliers food, Ms. Wang said. She added that machines equipped with brushes to clean large quantities of cantaloupes, usually with a chlorine solution, might not be effective if the melons are moved and contaminate others.
Pre-cut cantaloupe is more vulnerable to contamination and should be avoided, she said.