Walmart Takes Salmonella Peppers Very Seriously

WHO: Walmart
WHAT: A man is suing Walmart for selling him salmonella-tainted peppers that got him sick.
WHERE: Man Sues Wal-Mart Over Tainted Peppers [Washington Post]
THE QUOTE: “Obviously, food safety is very important to us. It’s a matter we take very seriously,” said Walmart spokesperson Daphne Davis Moore . “We’ll take a very close look at it.”

“Taking it seriously” is a phrase companies use over and over again to appear contrite without actually saying or doing anything. Our series of posts documenting recurrences of the phrase attempts to question how much seriousness-taking is actually going on.

(Photo: lucianvenutian)


Edit Your Comment

  1. BloggyMcBlogBlog says:

    Love the “Bullshit” tag.

  2. renilyn says:

    @BloggyMcBlogBlog: Oh sure, you say that and its gone now :( Though, I don’t see a “TAKING IT SERIOUSLY” tag either.

  3. Well, now that Walmart is taking it seriously, time to lower the terror threat level.

  4. Coles_Law says:

    This guy doesn’t have a chance against Walmart. The FDA didn’t implicate jalapenos until well after June 26. He may have better luck with the distributor.

  5. Shappie says:

    But, how can he sue if they didn’t know they were tainted? Does Wal-Mart have to test all their food?

  6. GavinEstecado says:

    @renilyn: Just point the cursor at WALMART listed above the post and it will show all other tags the post is associated with.

  7. thesepretzels says:

    What are they supposed to say? Absolutely nothing has been proven. Are they supposed to test every piece of fruit and vegetable they sell at all their stores for salmonella? What else should they test them for?

  8. OmniZero says:

    Uh, how can you sue them for selling you tainted peppers when Walmart has no real control over the quality of peppers they get, or how they’re grown for that matter? It’s not like “Oh let’s test for salmonella, just because.”

    Personally I’d side with Walmart on this one. If not for the fact of the stupidity of the case, but hopefully to finally tell people that suing others isn’t the solution to all of mankind’s problems.

  9. evslin says:

    Where do the retailers fit into the food supply equation, and at what point are they actually liable for the quality of the food? If this guy got sick a month before the FDA finally issued a warning regarding jalapenos, does he have a case against anybody other than Wal-Mart’s supplier and maybe the FDA for not tracking the problem down fast enough?

    I guess I could see him having a case against Wal-Mart if they’re still selling those jalapenos after the FDA put out the warning, but as it is now the worst that’ll happen is they settle the case and put the screws to their supplier to start testing things a little more thoroughly.

  10. Suaveydavey says:
  11. SkokieGuy says:

    Our government doesn’t find inspecting imported food very important, why should Walmart?

    “The FDA inspects about 1% of the imported foods it regulates, down from 8% in 1992 when imports were far less common.” So since we were attacked by terrorists, the monitoring of of our nation’s food supply has declined.


  12. Suaveydavey says:

    @Suaveydavey: what the hell? oops.

    Just mouse over the title and the other tags appear.

  13. ShyConsumeristFantasy says:

    This is why we have so many stupid laws. We have idiots like this guy suing for stuff like this. We need judges to stand up to these type of lawsuits and smack these people with a stop trying to get rich and get a real job stamp on their forehead.

  14. SkokieGuy says:

    Even if every store tested all food they sell, how would they prevent contamination from shoppers?

    I’m rather tall and I always reach to the back of the produce where presumably the fruit and veggies have been fondled a bit less.

  15. Gopher bond says:

    @evslin: I wrote a 35 page paper on supply chain ethics for my MBA. Wal-Mart’s supply chain is ginormous (actual quote from paper). It’s a fun argument to try and pinpoint how many levels down the chain responsibility and accountability go. The guy who processes the rubber for the cars to deliver the knives to the guy that cuts your tomatoes employes children.

    Do you blame Wal-Mart? Cause they’d be like WTF, mate?

  16. ARP says:

    @thesepretzels: That’s the free market model. WMT sold a defective product and failed to take reasonable safety procautions, so they get sued.

    Another option is for some entity that has power over Wal-Mart and food coming into the US to inspect our food supply and see if it is safe by imposing safety rules and standards. Of course that entity needs to have appropriate budgets, power, and authority to enforce these rules. We currently do not have such an entity. We used to, but not anymore. /sarcasm

  17. RickinStHelen says:

    And this is Walmart’s fault how?

  18. thesepretzels says:

    @ARP: That’s not a free market. A free market is one in which people choose where they spend their money. The courts have nothing to do with a free market. What do you consider to be “reasonable safety precautions” for sellers of fruits and vegetables?

  19. SkokieGuy says:

    RickinStHelen: Because Walmart has deep pockets.

    I despise Walmart for many reasons, but like any big company, they are a lawsuit magnet. Perhaps I spill my drink on their floor and 2 second later you slip before Walmart can clean it up. You won’t sue me, you’ll sue Walmart. Deeper pockets, and greater likelyhood they’ll just cut you a check to make you go away.

    P.S. Anyone else want to eat raw jalapenos, like this guy does?

    @testsicles: An MBA paper containing the word ‘ginormous’? Love it

  20. cf27 says:

    @OmniZero: Who is in a better position to make sure that Walmart’s customers don’t get tainted peppers? Walmart can monitor its suppliers, verify that they meet appropriate health standards, institute random testing procedures, etc…. Its customers are not in any sort of position to do these things. Allowing the consumers to sue WalMart forces Walmart to do those things (or, if doing those things really is very expensive, pay the consumer when he/she gets sick.)

  21. newfenoix says:

    @OmniZero: The burden of proof will be on the “victim” here and I don’t see how it can be proven that he bought tainted peppers from Wal-Mart.

  22. HunterZ says:

    I’d like to second the idea of using the “taking it seriously” tag.

  23. evslin says:

    @newfenoix: Unless he saves all his receipts, or if he paid by credit card and Wal-Mart has a record of the transaction they can reference.

  24. cf27 says:

    @thesepretzels: Actually, it doesn’t have to be “reasonable safety measures.” Under products liability laws in most states, if you sell a product which causes an injury when used as intended, you have to pay for that injury, regardless of the safety measures you took. (It’s more complicated than this, but that’s the general rule…)

    There are two ideas here: first, the seller is in a much better position to take those safety measures than the customer, but the seller won’t take those measures unless he has to pay the cost of not taking them. And, second, if the product is dangerous, then having the seller pay for the harm means that he gets to spread the cost of that harm across all his customers instead of having just one customer pay it.

  25. Aristeia says:

    @OmniZero: Walmart supplied the peppers. By common law, they’re responsible. However, if they lose the case (or more likely settle), they can attempt to implead the manufacturer/producer of the peppers for the damages paid out.

    @newfenoix: This isn’t impossible. If he can show that he purchased peppers from Walmart, that he ate those peppers, and show that he got sick afterwards, that’s a prima facie case of products liability.

    A receipt, doctor’s testimony, testimony of the plaintiff… yeah, it’s provable.

  26. boxjockey68 says:

    “Taking it seriously is a phrase companies use over and over again to appear contrite without actually saying or doing anything.”
    Ben, I love this. This is the most perfect statement that you have come up with.

  27. linbey says:


    I dont buy vegetables at all because they are too easy to be contaminated with people sneezing and coughing on them and then they pick them up and squeeze them and knock on them to see how fresh they are. Plus they are often coated with different chemicals and waxes to preserve them. Id rather just not eat vegetables and take a centrum to get nutrients than get sick from eating vegetables

  28. Grive says:

    @SkokieGuy: I’ve been known to deat jalapeños in pretty much any way you can think of, included but not limited to raw.

    I’m mexican, though, so I guess that’s expected.

  29. Shadowfire says:

    @linbey: Do you wipe down your grocery cart with anti-bacterial wipes, carry hand sanitizer in your pocket, and dive for your bottom drawer to get your mask out when someone coughs, too? Jesus Christ…

    No, really. I’d pick up an apple from the shelf and eat it immediately. Anything less, and you’re just being over-protective.

  30. floraposte says:

    I wash produce, and I use the vinegar spray Cook’s Illustrated recommends for the coated stuff. It’s really NBD to do, and judging by those looking at the stuff it somewhat cuts down the likelihood of my picking something up from a fellow shopper. Having been given a hideous norovirus by neighbor kids with a lemonade stand back a few years ago, I’m not eager to repeat the experience, and I’m not losing any key gustatory experience by just washing stuff.

    But washing won’t do anything about intrinsic stuff, such as salmonella in this case or in eggs, and in that case I just decide if the reward is worth what would currently seem to be the risk. For raw cookie dough? You bet.

  31. oneliketadow says:

    @Coles_Law: Sure he does have a chance, Wal-Mart sold him the product, he got sick, ergo, it’s their fault. If I sell a defective or infective product to someone, it makes it my fault. I could then sue the distributor or attempt to hold them liable for damages.

    Now, whether he has a chance against Wal-Mart’s legion of blue vested lawyers? That’s another story.

  32. My keyboard has a typo key says:

    Unless the peppers were sold after the FDA made a slight mention of the food was bad. Or other got sick also and they continued to sell the food. It is going to be hard for the plaintiff to prove negligence.

    During the tomato recall. Most stores in my area pulled all but local grown tomatoes.
    One thing about Walmart. They will pull food if it might cut into the bottom line.Due to torts. Not for safety. He is going to have an uphill battle. For all it’s bad, Walmart does a lot to protect how it looks in the public eye.

  33. Aristeia says:

    @twiddling_my_thumbs: agh. not actually true. please read this.

    Note the section that describes strict liability.

  34. redhelix says:

    I work in produce for a small new england supermarket chain currently owned by Supervalu, Inc. I was working the night that the FDA issued a formal statement regarding salmonella in jalapeno peppers

    After the FDA announced that the salmonella cases may be caused by contaminated jalapeno peppers, every jalapeno pepper and product containing raw, unpickled jalapenos were pulled off the shelves within – no kidding – 2 minutes. The peppers were destroyed immediately and the products containing them were put into quarantine. (Yes, we have a place for quarantined food.)

    This happened just under a month ago.

    This all happened way, way before June 26th, the day this guy claims he bought the peppers. If he bought contaminated peppers on this day, Wal-Mart’s employees completely dropped the ball on this one; shame on them.

  35. redhelix says:

    @testsicles: One thing you also need to bear in mind is that Wal-Mart does get to choose which vendors will be supplying their stores. As far as fresh produce goes, there are reputably good and reputably crappy vendors, and a certain risk factor associated with each.

    A lot of the produce recalls this year and the last have come from hispanic countries. There, I said it. There were bad cantaloupes from Guatemala and now we’ve got hazardous jalapenos from Chile. Unsurprisingly, the USA and Canada has vendors who grow both of these products and, as far as I’ve seen at my store, don’t seem to have much trouble providing a safe product… albeit a more expensive one.

    Point being, food retailers will always go for cheaper rather than safer to keep customers coming to their store; a conundrum wherein the customer simultaneously wins and loses.

  36. meandi says:

    I get the feeling this and the other 17,483 lawsuits filed (the day after this broke on the MSM) will end up in some Class Action Suit. Wal-Mart will settle out of court (the Law Firm will get a few Million…the plaintiffs will all get $5.00 off coupons).

    Sorry ;-) as you can tell…I don’t like these types of lawsuits (some are legitimate, but most tend to be something else).

  37. TheLadyK says:

    @testsicles: I’m terrible, but I would love to read the paper on supply chain ethics. If you’re interested in sharing, please let me know?

  38. Norislolz says:

    First Brian Peppers, now Jalepeneo Peppers.

    Peppers are serious buisness and Wal Mart is srs bsnsnsnsss.

  39. My keyboard has a typo key says:

    @Aristeia: There is no defect in the design of the product though.Produce is grown, not manufactured. It is inherently susceptible to natural organisms. That is more along the lines of health code.

  40. friendlynerd says:

    Where’s the “bad consumer” tag on this one? This is clearly someone just suing the deepest pockets in the supply chain.

    Walmart is far from being the only ones affected by tainted peppers, and as much as I hate the place, how can they help that situation?

  41. Brunette Bookworm says:

    As much as I dislike Wal-mart, I don’t think it’s necessarily their fault on this. I looked at the FDA site to try and find the warnings and recalls and I couldn’t find specific information recalling peppers until after the date the customer bought the product. I think it’s more a symptom of how large our food supply chain is and how unregulated it really is. I think it’s also a sign of the fact that the FDA can’t force a recall on items, they can order or request a company to recall food. If they compan doesn’t, then then the FDA has to seek legal action to seize the product. Where to we draw the line on government intervention in our food? Cities can ban certain foods but the FDA can’t, itself, recall a known contaminated product? That’s screwed up.

    All these food poisoning cases in the past couple years should really make people examine their buying habits and make government examine how it can protect citizens from bad products. I know I keep buying more and more local items because at least I know where it came from and I can see the person who grew or raised it. That and I read way too many books about how our food is processed and it’s just gross. Trying to get so much food so fast and so cheap is unsafe for the consumer.

  42. Aristeia says:

    @twiddling_my_thumbs: Yeah, no.

    Food is covered under products liability law. Microbial pathogens are manufacturing defects.

    Moreover, food, as a good sold to consumers, is covered under the UCC, ss 2-314, 315… implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.

  43. enderx says:

    Another whiney sue-happen victim.