Whole Foods sued for allegedly selling tainted cheese

By Jim Boyle | Aug 22, 2014

A Montgomery County woman claims that cheese she purchased from a local Whole Foods

market had been tainted, causing her to contract the listeria virus while pregnant, according to a personal injury suit filed at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Tiffany Leschak, of Rydal, Pa., seeks damages on eight counts of negligence and breach of warranty against Whole Foods and Forever Cheese, the company that originally packaged and shipped the allegedly tainted cheese. The plaintiff's husband, Stephen Leschak, also seeks damages for loss of consortium with his wife.

According to the complaint, Leschak purchased Forever Cheese's Frescolina ricotta salata cheese on June 7, 2012 at the Whole Foods located in Jenkintown, Pa. The suit says that she consumed the cheese over the next several days after the purchase. Over the next few days, Leschak began experiencing fatigue, nausea, fever and muscle aches.

On June 23, 2012, a pregnant Leschak had a blood culture performed at Abington Memorial Hospital. The test came back positive for sepsis secondary to a listeria infection.  She spent the next week at the hospital receiving treatment, including five days in the intensive care unit, according to the complaint.

On Sept. 10, 2012, Forever Cheese announced a recall of Frescolina ricotta salata cheese sold between Sept. 1, 2011 and Aug. 31, 2012. Two days later, Whole Foods initiated its own recall of the product, saying that packages received from Forever Cheese were opened by Whole Foods employees, cut into wedges and repackaged for sale. The plaintiff claims that this practice also increased the possibility of cross-contamination with any other cheeses that were in contact with the cutting boards.

Leschak says she experienced a dangerously high fever, extreme back pain, difficulty breathing and abdominal swelling. She and her husband also claim they suffered through severe emotional stress out of fear that their unborn child may be harmed.

Whole Foods and Forever Cheese are liable for packaging and distributing an unsafe food, the complaint says, and breached their warranties by guaranteeing quality cheese but serving a contaminated product. The suit says that Forever Cheese negligently failed to properly inspect the cheese before shipping it to Whole Foods, which in turn negligently failed to perform its own inspections. The Leschaks seek damages in excess of $50,000 for each count.

The plaintiffs are represented by Ara Richard Avrigian and Michael Budner.

The case ID number is 140600399.


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