UNION CITY — A Union City spice manufacturing and packaging plant under investigation in connection with a salmonella outbreak is being sued by a Southern California man on claims of negligence.
Union International Food Co., which has ceased production of and recalled its contaminated spices since state health officials linked the company to a few dozen cases of salmonella poisoning in late March, was sued this week by David Navarrette of San Pedro.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County, asserts that Navarrette became violently ill after consuming white pepper packaged under the company's Lian How label at a buffet restaurant in Reno. A DNA analysis revealed that he tested positive for the strain of Salmonella Rissen that matched identically with a strain found in the pepper, according to the suit.
To date, the spice company's products have been linked to 60 salmonella cases in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, according to the Houston-based law firm Simon & Luke, which is representing Navarrette. No deaths have been reported.
"I'm very interested to see whether the contamination occurred in the plant or in the field. ... Union Food is liable no matter what ... but I am interested to see exactly how (the contamination occurred) just so we can keep it from happening again," said the plaintiff's attorney, Ron Simon, who called for an independent inspection of the plant.
The suit asserts that the company failed in its "duty to take reasonable measures" to protect consumers by not adequately monitoring the safety and sanitary conditions of its premises, and failing to follow federal guidelines for good manufacturing practices, among other claims.
The plaintiff is seeking an unspecified amount in monetary compensation that would include covering medical bills, lost wages, and court and attorney fees.
A call Wednesday to Union International Food Co. seeking comment on the lawsuit was not returned. Last month, plant manager Daniel Chen said the company purchased pepper seeds from an outside supplier but he refused to identify the vendor.
Since the salmonella outbreak, the company has recalled numerous spices, sauces and oils packaged under its Lian How and Uncle Chen's labels.
For more information about the recall, visit www.ufunionfood.com or www.cdph.ca.gov.