Boise & Garden City

With lawsuit deadline near, 3 more people sue Boise Co-op over 2015 salmonella

Nearly 300 people reported becoming sick after eating sandwiches prepared in the deli of the Boise Co-op in June 2015. Three of those people filed suit on Monday, weeks before the two-year statute of limitations runs out.
Nearly 300 people reported becoming sick after eating sandwiches prepared in the deli of the Boise Co-op in June 2015. Three of those people filed suit on Monday, weeks before the two-year statute of limitations runs out. Idaho Statesman file

Nearly two years after a salmonella outbreak sickened hundreds of customers at the Boise Co-op, a new lawsuit has been filed by three people who say they became ill in summer 2015 after eating sandwiches made there.

The plaintiffs, Michael Pendergraft and Taylor Wallace of Boise and Kimberly O’Roark of Albuquerque, N.M., seek an unspecified amount of money. The 12-page complaint filed Monday in Ada County 4th District Court claims each of the plaintiffs suffered damages of more than $10,000 each.

The sandwiches were bought and eaten between June 5 and June 11, 2015. Two were purchased at the Co-op’s Boise location, while the third was bought at a food shop at the Boise Airport.

The bacteria can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, chills and headaches. The plaintiffs reported many of those symptoms. Pendergraft and O’Roark continue to recover from complications brought on by the illness, said Houston attorney Ron Simon, one of the lawyers representing the trio.

Co-op marketing manager Mo Valko and Boise attorney Michael Brady, who represents the Co-op, could not be reached Thursday for comment.

After the outbreak was reported, Central District Health determined turkey meat, tomatoes and onions prepared in the Co-op deli were contaminated with salmonella.

Health inspectors were unable to determine how the deli foods got contaminated. They concluded the bacteria were likely spread through cross-contamination from different foods and through poor personal hygiene practices by employees.

The health district confirmed or deemed “probable” 234 of 262 reports of salmonella poisoning. The other 28 were listed as “suspect.”

Eleven additional cases were reported by Idaho residents who lived outside of that health district, and 14 cases were reported by people who lived in other states.

No further incidents have been reported since then, said Christine Myron with Central District Health.

Last year, the Co-op reached settlements out of court with seven other people who became sick from the tainted food. The amount of money paid to each plaintiff was not reported in court documents.

After the outbreak, the Co-op shut down its deli for several days as it performed an extensive cleaning. It also installed new hand sinks and implemented new food handling procedures to prevent future instances of food poisoning.

A month later, in July 2015, a health inspector found three critical violations. Meat items in walk-in coolers were out of date or undated. Chopped chicken, Caprese salad and a chicken pasta dish were being held at too high of a temperature. In the produce department, the inspector found workers were using cleaners that weren’t approved for food contact surfaces.

Those violations were corrected, though food holding temperatures remained an occasional concern in later inspections. (That issue is not unique among Southwest Idaho eateries.) The Co-op’s general manager told the Statesman in July 2015 that the store was committed to changing bad habits.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell

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