Wrongful Death Suit Filed Over Tainted Meat - Dothan Eagle - February 4, 1999

Dothan Eagle
February 4, 1999

ZEELAND, Mich. (AP) Allegations about unclean conditions at a western Michigan meat processor were raised in a wrongful death lawsuit filed after the death of a woman who apparently ate tainted hot dogs.

Tainted meat from the Bil Mar plant has been linked to 11 deaths, five miscarriages and still births and about 72 illnesses in 14 states, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bil Mar, a division of Chicago-based Sara Lee Corp., on Dec. 22 recalled 15 million pounds of hot dogs and other packaged meat products sold under a variety of names. It said they could be tainted with listeria bacteria.

Listeria are common bacteria but can pose a serious risk to people with weakened immune systems, as well as to the elderly, diabetics and pregnant women.

On Tuesday, Chicago lawyer Kenneth Moll filed the suithis secondsaying he interviewed former Bil Mar employees who talked about unsanitary conditions at the plant and faulty cooking processes.

Sara lee spokeswoman Theresa Herlevsen declined to comment on the allegations about unclean conditions. Ms. Herlevsen said Sara Lee is aggressive about good sanitation practices.

The lawsuit filed in Chicago accuses the company of negligence in the death of Helen Bodnar, a 74-year-old woman from Memphis who died Oct. 19 of meningitis brought ton by a strain of listeria.

Bodnar died after eating hot dogs authorities suspect may have been processed at Bil Mar Foods.

Moll’s other suit, a class-action effort, seeks to collect for anyone who claims to have eaten the tainted Sara Lee products.

In another suit, a Phoenix woman is blaming Sara Lee for a miscarriage she had after eating tainted meat. The lawsuit alleges Sara Lee officials discovered listeria contamination at the Bil Mar plant in July, but did not recall the products or notify the public until December.

Sara Lee officials said they could not comment on the suit.