(Oct. 2) The Los Angeles Salad Co., City of Industry, Calif., filed a lawsuit against the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in the British Columbia Supreme Court, claiming the agency was negligent in its August warning to the public not to consume the company’s baby peeled carrots because of shigella contamination.

The lawsuit alleges the agency lacked a reasonable, factual or scientific basis for concluding that the carrots were contaminated and also failed to conduct adequate tests before making the public announcement.

Bob Hana, president of the company, would not comment on specifics of the suit but did say the company was forced to sue the agency.

“We tried to get information from them to get a better understanding of why they did what they did, but they have told us to make a freedom of information request,” said Dale Sanderson, the company’s Vancouver, British Columbia-based attorney Sanderson said. “We’ve done that, but that can take a very long time.”

“They were not willing to give us information, so they forced us to take this route,” he said.

SUBSTANTIAL LOSSES

Hana said losses from the voluntary recall are yet to be determined, but they are substantial, he said. The company sold 330,000 bags of carrots last year, Sanderson said. Earlier, company spokesmen said the product was sold in 7- and 8-ounce bags.

The company lost a major customer, he said, declining to identify the firm.

Sanderson said Los Angeles Salad Co. requested information from the Canadian agency regarding its testing methodology after it recalled its Genuine Sweet Baby Carrots sold in Canada and the U.S., based on the agency’s presumptive positive finding from a single random sample it obtained from Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd.

“Some results were provided that show three samples were tested from open bags of carrots,” Sanderson said. “Two tested negative, and one tested a presumptive positive.”

A follow-up test was negative, he said.

The recall involved product distributed in Canada by Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd. and in the U.S. by Kroger Co.’s King Soopers in Colorado and Ralph’s in California and by Publix in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina and Florida.

It also involved private-label carrots under the Trader Joe’s Genuine Sweet Baby Carrots brand distributed by Trader Joe’s in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

CFIA officials said there were four confirmed illnesses attributed to the company’s product. That number has not increased as of Sept. 26.

Sanderson said the company has since conducted 60 tests of its facilities and carrots returned from Costco. All were negative. Additionally, he said tests conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration were negative, as well as those conducted by Mexican health authorities because the product was grown and shipped from that country.

Rene Cardinal, acting national manager for fruit and vegetable program, said the government lab’s methodology is approved by Health Canada, Ottawa.