Texas Salmonella Outbreak Traced to Iguana Joe's Restaurant

July 8, 2013

Contaminated food lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report of the nation's most recent Salmonella outbreak, stemming from tainted food sold at Iguana Joe's restaurant in Humble, Texas. This follows a May 2013 Salmonella outbreak which spread to 41 states and infected nearly 400 people, and which was ultimately traced to small pet turtles.

5807837573_d44339e970.jpg The May multistate outbreak resulted in at least 63 hospitalizations and fortunately no deaths. More than 70% of those infected were children aged ten and younger, with another 33% in children under the age of one. Epidemiologic and environmental investigations indicated that exposure to small turtles or their environment was the cause of these outbreaks.

A little less than a third of those infected reported purchasing their small turtles from street vendors and about 13% from pet stores. Turtles are actually a significant cause of Salmonella poisoning, particularly in small children.

The most recent outbreak in Texas, however, occurred over Father's Day weekend due to negligent food safety practices at Iguana Joe's. Victims of this contamination, of which there have been at least 20, are now asking Iguana Joe's to compensate them for their medical costs.

The restaurant closed on June 25, 2013 because of health code violations, including failing to keep food at correct temperatures. Although the exact source of contamination is not yet known, Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services is currently investigating the restaurant. Other violations include failure by employees to maintain adequate hygiene, cross contamination, and failing to properly clean food contact surfaces and utensils.

Depending on the health, age and lifestyle of the victim, Salmonella poisoning can manifest in any number of ways, from the unnoticeable to the deadly serious. Some Texas residents have had to be hospitalized for the contamination, with complications like reactive arthritis, acute gastroenteritis, and high fever.

It is not uncommon for companies and establishments like Iguana Joe's, who are exclusively responsible for major outbreaks, to compensate victims for their medical expenses. Just recently in 12 of the country's most western states, a frozen berry mix sold at Costco infected at least 120 people with hepatitis A. Many of those victims just filed a class action against the berry's manufacturer, Townsend Farms, seeking compensation for their forced hepatitis A vaccinations and testing.

According to the complaint, the lead plaintiff bought Townsend's berry mix at a Costco in California, only learning of the contamination and consequent recall after consuming it. He and his wife were then forced to receive serology testing to determine if they were infected, and then had to be administered vaccinations against the infection.

The class action is intended to reimburse consumers for the cost of receiving a hepatitis A test or vaccine, as well as any subsequent medical costs and missed time from work. Plaintiffs are asking Townsend Farms, like victims are asking Iguana Joe's, to compensate them for the costs incurred from the contamination and exposure. Victims would also like these companies to compensate public health agencies for the costs associated with providing large numbers of people vaccinations and outbreak-related investigations.

They rightly contend that taxpayers should not be held responsible for individual company's negligent food safety processes. Salmonella lawyers at Pintas & Mullins have decades of experience advocating on behalf of food safety victims and their families. If you or a loved one was infected by a recalled or contaminated food, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation for your medical costs and lost wages.