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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Botulism Outbreak Blamed on Machines

AUGUSTA, Ga. (CN) - Bumble Bee Foods claims that a summertime 2007 outbreak of botulism poisoning, traced to its canned Castleberry Hot Dog Chili Sauce, was not its fault, but was caused by defective machinery provided and maintained by Malo Inc. and Massmann Enterprises. Bumble Bee says it lost $40 million due to Malo's defective "Crateless Retort System."

The complaint states: "This Complaint concerns the equipment failure of a food sterilization system manufactured, engineered and sold by Defendants Massmann Enterprises. Inc. and Malo, Inc. (collectively referred to herein as 'Malo') as a result of several design defects that permitted a leaking valve to go undetected. The undetected leaking valve resulted in the under-processing of certain canned food products produced on the Malo Crateless Retort System. Plaintiffs in certain product-liability actions against Bumble Bee allege that, as a result, certain cans of product became contaminated with botulism and caused illness to certain individuals who consumed those products. The discovery of the under-processing triggered a nationwide recall by Bumble Bee of all products produced on its Malo system, and the approximately two-month shut-down of the Augusta, Georgia plant owned by Castleberry's Food Company ('Castleberry's'), a company owned and operated by Bumble Bee.

"Malo not only manufactured the defectively designed system and engineered the system specifically for installation at the Castleberry's plant; it also undertook to provide engineering services relating to the purchase, installation, maintenance, and operation of the Malo system. In the course of providing these services, Malo failed to warn Bumble Bee about risks associated with the design of Malo's processing system, of which Malo knew or should have known, that rendered the equipment unsafe for its use in commercial food sterilization. Malo also failed to exercise ordinary care in advising Bumble Bee about the safe operation of the system.

"As a direct and proximate result of Malo's negligently designed Crateless Retort System, its failure to warn Bumble Bee about design risks of which it knew or should have known, and its failure to advise Bumble Bee about adjustments and enhancements to the equipment necessary to render it safe for commercial food sterilization, Bumble Bee suffered damages, in an amount to be determined at trial, arising from the failure of the Malo system to sterilize the canned food products it processed."

Bumble Bee is represented by Taylor Tapley Daley with Nelson Mullins Riley of Atlanta and Robert Van Kirk with Williams & Connolly of Washington, D.C.

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