By Thomas Soldan, an attorney experienced in litigation, who represents clients in both criminal cases as well as personal injury matters.
As Americans, we put our faith in institutions and expect them to keep us safe. We don’t always have the capacity to protect ourselves in certain situations. One of these situations would be when we enter a restaurant.
When entering a restaurant, we naturally assume that local, state and federal health agencies have done their due-diligence and expect the quality of the food to be nothing but the best. No one walks into a restaurant thinking that there is a possibility their health could be in danger. We expect restaurants to follow certain guidelines set forth by the government to ensure our safety.
Which is why it made national news when at least 55 people nationally were infected with hepatitis A as a result of strawberries that were imported from Egypt. These strawberries were used by multiple Tropical Smoothie Café locations. This outbreak is causing significant damage to the company’s brand.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that Virginia has been hit the hardest by this outbreak. Approximately 40 confirmed cases have been reported in Virginia, and half of them have required extended hospital care. The Virginia Department of Health is reporting that the outbreak started in May and has been steadily increasing since that time.
Naturally, those affected by the hepatitis A outbreak, and those who frequent any of the 500 Tropical Smoothie Café locations nationally, are extremely upset by what has happened. It did not come as a surprise, therefore, when two Virginians filed a lawsuit against the Tropical Smoothie Café after the link to hepatitis A was discovered.
The suit was filed in support of the victims who were forced to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time and for those who felt the need to get a vaccine because of the smoothies they had consumed.
Their lawyers are contending that Tropical Smoothie Café breached the warranty of the safety of its products and should be punished because of this oversight.
A spokesperson for the Tropical Smoothie brand put out a statement regarding the lawsuit. She said: “We have not received notice of the suit. However, we have some of the highest safety standards in the industry and will defend ourselves vigorously.”
The Virginia Department of Health is also saying there was nothing that could have been done to prevent the problem. They maintain that there have been no identifiable issues with Tropical Smoothie’s food-handling practices.
This hepatitis A outbreak highlights a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Given the high volume of fruits and vegetables that the U.S. imports from overseas, maintaining proper food safety practices is of paramount importance and eateries need to make sure that their attentiveness to public health issues is always as high as possible.