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Gluten Free Cheerios Recalled After Wheat Contamination Discovery

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But if you are allergic to wheat and you eat Cheerios, you may want to skip it this week.

On Monday, breakfast cereal maker General Mills announced that it was recalling nearly two million boxes of Honey Nut and regular Cheerios marked gluten free. The company said in a press release that "an undeclared allergen -- wheat -- with potentially adverse health effects may be present in the cereals we produced on several dates in Lodi, in July."

An Isolated Incident Involving Purely Human Error

The company was quite effusive in its apologies and explanation, writing, "We sincerely apologize to the gluten-free community and to anyone who may have been impacted. We care deeply about making safe, nutritious, gluten free products more widely available, and we've worked very hard to ensure our products are gluten free. Today we must acknowledge that we failed to meet that commitment for a time and we're recalling all affected products as a result."

General Mills made it a point to say that the oat supply was not at issue and was tested. The company is also testing all finished products and says it has instituted new protocols to ensure that gluten free products do not end up contaminated with wheat again.

What exactly happened to cause the contamination? Apparently, the rail service to the Lodi factory was out of service briefly. As a result, the gluten free oat flour was loaded into trucks instead. This change of routine caused wheat flower to be "inadvertently introduced" into the systems that process only gluten-free oats. The error evidently wasn't caught until after the products had been labeled with the FDA gluten-free standard and shipped off to the market.

Two Reported Sick

Two people have reportedly let General Mills know directly that they were affected by the contaminated products, CNN reports. The company is asking customers with wheat allergies to refrain from eating cereals with the affected codes.

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Prison Time for Peanut Execs Involved in Deadly Salmonella Outbreak

For the former President of the Peanut Corporation, 28 years in prison may sound like a good deal. Stewart Parnell was facing a possible prison term of 803 years for knowingly shipping salmonella-tainted peanut butter to consumers, leading to an outbreak that killed 9 people.

As it stands, the prison term is the longest ever handed out in a food safety case. And Parnell isn't the only one headed behind bars in the scandal.

A Rat's Nest

Along with Stewart Parnell's 28 years, here are the other prison terms handed down in the case:

  • Michael Parnell, Food Broker, 20 years: Stewart's brother was convicted on federal conspiracy charges in September 2014.
  • Mary Wilkerson, Quality Control Manager, 5 years: Worked at the plant in question and convicted of obstruction of justice.
  • Samuel Lightsey, Manager, 3 years: Ran day-to-day operations at the plant, he and Daniel Kilgore pleaded guilty to conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and the sale of misbranded and adulterated food and received shortened sentences for their cooperation in the investigation and for serving as government witnesses.
  • Daniel Kilgore, Manager, 6 years.

Judge W. Louis Sands, who sentenced Stewart and Michael Parnell, said, "these acts were driven simply by the desire to profit and to protect profits notwithstanding the known risks. This is commonly and accurately referred to as greed." Attorneys for the Parnells say they will appeal the prison sentences.

No Literally There Were Rats in There

According to the Associated Press:

"Federal investigators found a leaky roof, roaches and evidence of rodents at the plant, all ingredients for brewing salmonella. They also uncovered emails and records showing that food confirmed by lab tests to contain salmonella was shipped to customers anyway. Other batches were never tested at all, but got shipped with fake lab records saying salmonella screenings were negative."

Over 700 people were sickened in the outbreak and another nine people died of salmonella poisoning.

If you or a loved one have been sickened or injured by tainted food, you should contact an experienced injury attorney to discuss your case.

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Salmonella-Infected Cucumbers Continue Causing Illness Around the Country

Over 500 people in 33 US states have been infected with salmonella, and one woman is dead, due to cucumbers. The culprit cukes have been recalled. But the Food Poisoning Bulletin suspects that there may be many more people ill.

Most salmonella cases are not reported, so some experts believe that the true figure for this outbreak is much closer to 16,000 sick. That number comes from using a salmonella multiplier of 30.3, which has been derived from studying other such outbreaks.

A Bad Rap for Fat Boys

The type of cucumber associated with this latest salmonella outbreak is called "fat boy." The cucumber, which is technically a fruit and not a vegetable, is about eight inches long and has a dark green skin. Fat boys are also known as slicers or American cucumbers.

Indeed, they can be found all over the country. A Red Lobster in Minnesota has been linked to the salmonella outbreak, and other chain restaurants that may have used the cucumbers are In-N-Out Burger, Capital Grille, and Olive Garden.

No retail distribution list has been released for fat boys. As such, it is impossible to know which stores might be affected but Walmart, WinCo, Savemart, Ralphs, and Food 4 Less have all recalled the fruit.

Given the short shelf life, however, and the fact that this outbreak began a few weeks back, it is likely that the culprit cucumbers are no longer on the market, even as the number of people who report illness grows.

How Do You Know If You Are Sick?

Salmonella symptoms include abdominal pains, chills, diarrhea, headaches, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and muscle aches. The infection usually manifests soon after exposure -- within six hours to three days.

Most people recover from the salmonella infection without medical treatment. The vast majority of reported cases of illness this summer were in people under 18 years old, and the San Diego woman who died after infection was 99 years old.

What to Do?

Still, if you feel sick and suspect you may be infected, see a physician. Although the strain of salmonella at the heart of this outbreak is not deadly in and of itself, dehydration and sepsis have been known to take victims' lives.

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection. It occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight infection trigger inflammatory responses in the body that can ultimately damage organ systems, causing them to fail.

Related Resources

Walgreens Overcharging Customers With 'Stale' Price Tags (Again)

Back in 2014, Walgreens was hit with a permanent injunction against leaving expired price tags on its shelves. According to a new lawsuit from the Missouri attorney general's office, the chain is back at its old tricks again.

The latest lawsuit cites an investigation launched that found more than 1,300 expired tags in 49 stores across the state, some as old as 2013.

Late to the Party

Walgreens submitted to independent auditing of its Missouri stores, promising to remove stale tags within 12 hours of expiration. Although the retail chain assured the state its stores would meet 98 percent price accuracy, 30 stores failed to meet that mark and Walgreens has already paid $136,000 to the state for failing the audits.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is asking for Walgreen's to be held in contempt of court for violating the price tag order:

"Consumers have a right to rely on the pricing that they see on the shelves without having to verify the cost of each item in their basket when they go up to the cash register. Instead, Walgreens continues their shoddy business practice, putting the burden on customers to ensure they’re not being overcharged."

Pay the Piper

The Missouri AG's lawsuit says the investigation found 1,306 expired tags at 49 of 50 Walgreens stores and is asking for $5,000 per tag violation. And that potential $6.5 million civil fine is just the start.

According to St. Louis Public Radio, Walgreens may also owe its customers some money: "Under the 2014 legal agreement customers who are overcharged for an item costing $5 or less are legally entitled to get that item for free and get a $10 gift card if they’re overcharged for items costing more than $5."

Beyond the hit to Walgreens's reputation among shoppers, the retail giant could also take a sizable hit to the wallet.

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VW Sets Aside $7.3B for Worldwide Recall

What began as an effort to skirt U.S. emissions standards has exploded into a global crisis for Volkswagen. Initial reports indicated VW rigged 500,000 vehicles to emit lower harmful chemicals during testing, and now the auto manufacturer has admitted that the emissions scandal could affect 11 million vehicles worldwide.

So what exactly happened? And could your Jetta wagon or Rabbit convertible be recalled?

(Not So) Clean Diesel

For years, VW has been touting its Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) engines as "Clean Diesel" -- more fuel efficient and with fewer harmful emissions than other engines -- and the TDI had won multiple "Green Car of the Year" awards. (As of this writing, returns a 404 error.)

But it turned out VW was merely gaming the system. According to the EPA, the car company installed software in its TDI vehicles that could detect when the car was undergoing periodic state emissions testing, and the software would only engage the vehicles' full emissions control systems during testing. The rest of the time, the controls would be turned off, and the clean TDI engines would be spewing 40 times the amount of pollution allowed under the EPA's Clean Air Act.

Dude, Where's My Car Gonna Go?

According to the EPA, Volkswagen admitted to the use of a "defeat device" and has begun recall procedures affecting some 482,000 VW and Audi vehicles from model years 2009 to 2015. Specifically, the affected models are the 2009-15 Volkswagen Jetta, 2009-15 Beetle, 2009-15 Golf, 2014-15 Passat, and 2009-15 Audi A3. If you own one of these cars, you can probably expect a recall notice soon.

As the scandal broke in the United States and VW's stock plummeted, other countries, most notably France and Germany, began their own investigations. Volkswagen then told investors that internal investigations indicated that the emissions issue could impact more than 11 million vehicles and the German car company would set aside $7.3 billion to cover the costs of recalls and damage control. Experts predict it could take years for VW to rebuild its reputation.

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Is Your Keyless Ignition Deadly?

A group of plaintiffs have filed a class action lawsuit against ten of the world's largest automakers, claiming the keyless ignition system can be deadly. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, alleges the car companies were aware the systems increased the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and concealed the danger from consumers.

The plaintiffs are seeking money damages and an injunction that would force manufacturers to install an automatic shut-off feature to avoid future fatalities.

Is Your Engine Running?

The danger from keyless ignition systems exists when drivers leave their cars running, assuming the engines will turn off by themselves. This doesn't happen, however, and people may not notice the poisonous gas their cars are emitting whilst still running. The risk is increased when cars have quiet engines and are parked in garages attached to homes.

According to the recently filed complaint, some 13 people have been killed and many more injured by carbon monoxide poisoning. While some vehicles have an alert if a driver leaves a car running, and some newer models come with an automatic engine shutoff feature, the plaintiffs here don't think that goes far enough. The lawsuit also contends, "The automakers had actual knowledge of the dangerous carbon monoxide poisoning consequences of vehicles with keyless fobs that lack an automatic shut-off."

Remix to Ignition

While the other defendant auto manufacturers, including BMW, Mini Daimler's Mercedes Benz, Fiat Chrysler, General Motors Co., Honda, and Acura have yet to comment on the litigation, Ford has said it takes customer safety "very seriously," and contends its keyless ignition system is "safe and reliable."

In order to solve the ignition shutoff problem, car makers may have to issue a recall on the affected models. The Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also has the authority to require manufacturers to recall vehicles with safety-related defects, but thus far the NHTSA has declined to comment on the latest ignition problem.

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Walgreens Settles Consumer Protection Lawsuit

Consultations with pharmacists can save lives. By consulting with patients, pharmacists can ensure they have the right medication for their conditions and that multiple medications won't be harmful.

Apparently, Walgreens pharmacists were shirking that responsibility, and now the chain is paying over half a million dollars to settle a consumer protection lawsuit.

Prescription Pill Parameters

The California State Board of Pharmacy has regulations requiring pharmacists to provide a personal consultation any time a patient:

  • Receives a prescription drug not previously dispensed to that patient;
  • Receives a different dosage, form, or strength of a prescription drug; or
  • Requests a consultation.

Officials note that 150,000 Californians misuse prescription drugs each year, costing the state almost $2 billion in economic losses. (This is probably why the Food and Drug Administration warns against buying medications over the Internet.)

Way back in 2011, the Board alerted district attorney's offices in San Diego, Riverside, and Alameda County to the issue of pharmacists failing to provide required consultations. In response, the counties began running undercover operations in major pharmacy chains statewide to uncover lax consultation practices.

Getting the Treatment

This is the third enforcement act regarding pharmacist consultations (or lack thereof); CVS received an injunction and paid $658,500 in December 2013, and Rite Aid also received an injunction and paid $498,250 in June 2014.

Though it admits no liability, Walgreens will pony up $502,200 as part of their settlement, and is also subject to an injunction forcing its pharmacists to comply with the state Board of Pharmacy's standards for patient consultations. Walgreens operates over 600 pharmacies in the state and must implement a strict internal compliance program to insure it does not violate protocols in the future.

The settlement comes on the heels of a 2012 lawsuit claiming Walgreens overcharged insurance companies for generic drugs.

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Kraft Recalls Cheese Singles After 3 Report Choking

Kraft recalled some 377,000 packages of its Kraft Singles cheese after reports of plastic sticking to the cheese. The announcement is a stunning assertion that there's a difference between the company's pasteurized prepared cheese product and the wrapper.

So what products were affected, and what should you do if you bought some bad cheese?

Singular Danger

Kraft recalled packages of Kraft Singles American and White American cheese. According to the LA Times:

The recalled products have a "best when used by" date of Dec. 29, 2015, through Jan. 4, 2016, followed by the manufacturing code S54 or S55. No other sizes, varieties or code dates are included in the recall.

No deaths relating to the cheese have been noted, but ten people reported plastic remaining on the cheese after the wrapper had been removed, and three people reported choking on the plastic.

In a press release, Kraft warned,

Consumers who purchased this product should not eat it. They should return it to the store where purchased for an exchange or full refund. Consumers in the U.S. and Puerto Rico can also contact Kraft Heinz Consumer Relations for a full refund, at 1-800-432-3101, Monday through Friday, 9am to 6pm Eastern.

Sailing the Seas of Cheese

As choking hazards go, the danger with Kraft's singles is true to its flavor: bland. The cheesy plastic is no Hello Kitty whistle pop, child car seat chest pad, bumblebee slipper sock, toy cell phone antenna, "Little People Animal Sounds Farm" nail fastener, or Build-A-Bear eyeball. It appears the entire world is a choking risk for toddlers, and we will cover that recall when it happens.

In the meantime, be careful with your cheese. Perhaps you can buy the pre-shredded sack of mozzarella or the 2x4 block of cheddar. Or go big and invest in a nacho cheese fountain.

Related Resources:

Possible Salmonella in Spices Sparks Recall

Kroger Co. has issued a recall on four of its spices due to concerns of possible salmonella contamination. The supermarket chain is pulling Kroger Ground Cinnamon, Kroger Garlic Powder, Kroger Coarse Ground Black Pepper, and Kroger Bac’n Buds from its shelves.

The recall affects Kroger and other Kroger systems stores in 17 states.

Something Fishy

Although no illnesses were reported, salmonella was found in a sample of garlic powder from a store in South Carolina. Aiming to be on the safe side, Kroger is pulling the four spices from its own stores, Jay C., Dillons, King Soopers, Fry's, Fred Meyer, Ralphs, Food 4 Less, and Smiths.

And the recall isn't confined to South Carolina -- Kroger is pulling spices in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia as well. The Food and Drug Administration is recommending that customers who bought the recalled spices should not eat them and return them to the store for a full refund.

Food Poisoning and Product Liability

Salmonella is bacteria that can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, and death if consumed by the elderly or even young children with weakened immune systems. Food manufacturers have a duty, known as product liability, to protect consumers from known or potential hazards in the foods they make, especially with something unseen like salmonella.

Food recalls are designed to protect the public from a dangerous product. Often they can be instituted by the FDA, or a manufacturer or distributor can initiate a recall if there are complaints or failed quality control tests.

If someone becomes sick from food poisoning, the manufacturer or seller could be liable for damages. If you or someone you know has gotten sick due to salmonella or some other kind of food product, you may want to consult with a products liability attorney near you.

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Citigroup Will Refund $700 Million for Deceptive Marketing

Citigroup's extra fees for add-on services is now costing the company $770 million.

In an agreement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Citigroup will pay $70 million in fines and refund $700 million to consumers for illegal and deceptive credit card practices.

Here is what you need to know:

Illegal and Deceptive Practices

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), created by the Dodd-Frank Act after the 2008 financial crisis, is responsible for regulating the credit industry and investigating illegal and deceptive practices. In 2013, the CFPB fined JP Morgan Chase for unfair billing practices for credit card add-on products. In 2014, Bank of America was fined for a similar violation. Citigroup is the CFPB's latest victim.

In its investigation into the company, the CFPB found that, as far back as 2000, Citi charged customers for add-on products such as credit score monitoring or rush processing of payments. The company allegedly signed consumers up for add-on services when it was unclear whether the consumer actually said they wanted it or not. In another case, Citi charged customers for credit monitoring services but did not perform any of the services. Also, the company charged customers a $14.95 expedited payment fee for over-the-phone payments without informing them about free payment options.

These add-on services are illegal because they provide no actual benefit to the consumer.

The Refunds

As part of the settlement, Citi has agreed to issue refunds to 8.8 million affected customers. Most customers will receive a statement credit. Customers who no longer have a Citi account will receive a check in the mail.

Watch out for Deceptive Charges

Citi has reported that it stopped these deceptive practices since 2013. Also, the CFPB's enforcement activities have largely ended the practices among other banks and credit card companies as well.

However, consumer financial advocates warn that payday lenders and so called loan sharks still engage in these deceptive practices. If you believe that your lender or credit card company is engaging in illegal practices, you can make a complaint with the CFPB or consult with an experienced consumer protection attorney for help.

Related Resources:



Common Law Vanguard Panel

The following firms have assisted the FindLaw editorial team in identifying emerging trends in consumer protection law and topics of importance to readers of this blog: