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An Indiana couple has filed a federal lawsuit against ConAgra, seeing unspecified damages, that charges the manufacturer with culpability in the illness of their 11-year-old daughter. The Brugh family believes that the child got sick after eating salmonella-tainted peanut butter manufactured by ConAgra, and it is seeking compensation for the child’s ongoing medical problems – she has been on dialysis for five months, and is scheduled to get a kidney transplant next week from her father. The parents also say they are looking to force the government to do more to insure that the food being sold in America’s supermarkets is safe.

ConAgra had to recall all of its peanut butter – distributed under the Peter Pan brand and as Wal-Mart’s Great Value private label – earlier this year after investigators linked salmonella-related sickness to consumption of the product.

The company did not comment on the specifics of the suit, but spokeswoman Stephanie Childs told the Associated Press, “Any consumer that may have been made ill or harmed by our product is of deep concern to us. We do take consumer safety and health very seriously. It's why we initiated the recall as quickly as we could.”
KC's View:
We can’t judge this case on its merits, though our heart goes out to the Brugh family – we can’t imagine what it would be like to go through what they are enduring right now.

What this highlights, however, is the degree to which the nation’s food safety apparatus is under a microscope. There will be more of these cases, there will be class actions, there will be “60 Minutes” segments, and there may even be the inevitable Michael Moore movie.

This isn’t the time to circle the wagons and just defend the industry. Clearly, from all the cases that have taken place over the past year or so – peanut butter, meat, lettuce, toothpaste, dog food etc… - there is some sort of systemic problem that needs to be addressed.

The food industry ought to be at the front of this effort, not taking up the rear.