Lawsuit filed following Robin Hood Flour recall

EDMONTON — A pair of Alberta-based law firms say they’ve filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of people who bought or consumed a popular brand of flour that’s been linked to illnesses from E. coli.

James H. Brown and Associates and Higgerty Law say they’re seeking damages from Smucker Foods of Canada Corp. following a national recall of 10-kilogram bags of Robin Hood Original All Purpose Flour.

A statement of claim says the representative plaintiff lives in Victoria, B.C., and became so sick after eating cookie dough that her kidneys began shutting down.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a recall in Western Canada for the flour late last month, and the Public Health Agency of Canada says an outbreak of E. coli O121 has been linked to the flour.

On Wednesday, the CFIA announced the recall had been expanded to include different sizes and production codes of several other brands of flour produced by Ardent Mills of Brampton, Ont.

They include some Brodie self-raising cake and pastry flour; Creative Baker all-purpose and whole wheat flour; Golden Temple creamy wheat; and several lots of Robin Hood one-kilogram bags of flour, all with different product codes and best-before dates.

The health agency says there have been 26 cases related to the original recall of people being infected with the bacteria in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador. No illnesses have yet been reported from those products listed in the update.

No deaths have been reported, but at least six people required hospital care.

No one from the company could be immediately reached for comment about the lawsuit.

A spokeswoman for the J.M. Smucker Co., Maribeth Burns, said last week that the recalled flour was produced at a mill in Saskatoon.

Burns said consumers should note public health warnings not to taste raw dough or batter and that eating a small amount could make people sick.

The lawsuit claims the company breached its duty to safely manufacture goods. It alleges the company was negligent by failing to test its flour thoroughly, and that it failed to recall the tainted flour immediately upon learning people were becoming ill.

It also says the company failed to adopt technological advances in laboratory testing for flour, lacked adequate procedures for cleaning equipment and didn’t train staff properly for food handling.

None of the allegations has been proven in court.

The lawsuit says it seeks compensation for physical and emotional injury and lost wages. It also seeks a refund for consumers who bought the flour.

Food contaminated with E. coli may not look or smell spoiled, but can still make people sick. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, mild to severe abdominal cramps and watery to bloody diarrhea.

The bacteria can be found in the lower intestines of animals and people.

The food agency said it is investigating the source of the E. coli.

Concerns about people getting ill from possible E. coli contamination have triggered a national food recall warning about a popular brand of flour.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says 10,000, 10-kilogram bags of Robin Hood Original All Purpose Flour are being recalled by Smucker Foods of Canada.

“The risk is defined high enough that we want to make sure that consumers are aware of it,” Fred Jamieson, a CFIA food safety recall specialist, said Wednesday.

“We don’t want them to continue consuming the product. We want them to throw it out or take it back to retail and to encourage people if they aren’t feeling well to seek medical aid.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada says an outbreak of E. coli O121 has been linked to the flour.

The recall applies to flour with a best before date of April 17, 2018 (2018 AL 17) and the production code 6 291 548.

The agency says there have been 26 cases of people being infected with this kind of E. coli bacteria in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador.

No deaths have been reported, but at least six people required hospital care.

The agency says the investigation is ongoing and there could be additional products linked to the outbreak.

Food contaminated with E. coli may not look or smell spoiled, but can still make people sick. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, mild to severe abdominal cramps and watery to bloody diarrhea.

The bacteria can be found in the lower intestines of animals and people.

Jamieson said all of the bags of flour that haven’t been sold are now off store shelves, but it is not clear how many are in the hands of consumers.

The shelf life of a bag of flour can be up to 18 months.

Maribeth Burns, a spokeswoman for the J.M. Smucker Company, said the flour was produced at a mill in Saskatoon.

Burns said consumers should note public health warnings not to taste raw dough or batter and that eating a small amount could make people sick.

Consumers are also being told to use hot water and soap to wash any bowls, utensils, or surfaces that flour was used on and to wash their hands after handling flour.

“We can assure you that consumer safety and product quality are of paramount importance to our company,” Burns said in an email from the company’s office in Ohio.

“As such, we have been working closely with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on this limited recall on one production code of flour.”

Burns said the wheat the flour is made from undergoes minimal processing.

The CFIA said it is investigating the source of the E. coli.

Last month the agency announced an initial recall of the flour in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

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