BOONE, Iowa -- Fareway Stores said it pulled supplies of Ackley-based Triple T Specialty Meat's chicken salad from its shelves before the U.S.D.A. ordered a recall because of a salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 100 people in several states.
The potentially contaminated products were sold at Fareway grocery stores in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota between January 4 and February 9.
Jim Fox, of Grimes, said the chicken salad used to be one of his favorite foods. However, that was before he says he ate a salmonella-contaminated batch and became extremely sick last week.
"It just kept getting worse. Tuesday I had diarrhea 15 times. By Wednesday morning I could barely function. I just got in the car and drove straight to the hospital," he said.
That's where Fox tested positive for salmonella. "They said, 'well, a day in the hospital, maybe two, we can get you through this,' and that was on Wednesday morning. Thursday morning, about two o'clock in the morning, my room is full of doctors and nurses because my heart's in AFib, I was so dehydrated," he said.
Scared he wouldn't survive, Fox said he now wants to be compensated for his lost wages and hefty 6 day stay hospital bill. He's not alone in this--the outbreak also sparked lawsuits in Illinois and South Dakota.
Fox and three others are suing Fareway and Triple T Meats. According to the USDA, more than 20,000 pounds of tainted chicken salad was manufactured at Triple T and then shipped to Fareway.
"We have filed suit on behalf of four people so far. We expect there will be others," said attorney Steve Wandro of Wandro & Associates.
Triple T Speciality Meats Executive Director Jolene Heikens said the FDA recently tested the facility for salmonella and listeria, and all 60 results came back negative. She told Channel 13 that she believes the contamination must have happened on the way to the grocery stores and not at its facility.
Fox still has questions.
"So was it an employee that was sick, was it an employee that didn't wash after the restroom?" wondered Fox.
Fox and his attorney say Fareway or Triple T meats are to blame and that someone needs to be held accountable.
"At the end of the day they will do the right thing, but again, consumers are consumers. When you go into Fareway and you buy chicken salad, you expect it to be safe," said Wandro.
Wandro also said he has never seen a food-borne outbreak this bad in Iowa.
A statement from Fareway's Vice Present Garrett Piklap said the chain took action, before the U.S.D.A. ordered Triple T Speciality Meats' chicken salad pulled off the shelves.
"By the time the advisory was issued, Fareway had already voluntarily pulled the product. This product has not been sold at any Fareway location since February 9, 2018, and will not be sold again at any Fareway until we are certain the problem has unquestionably been resolved," Piklap said.
He added, "The recall was issued to the product producer and packager, Triple T Specialty Meats, Inc. – not Fareway," Piklap said.