Lawyers win: Wal-Mart files suit in Jensen cantaloupe case

There’s a food safety shell game for fresh produce involving growers, retailers and auditors.

Consumers are losing, lawyers are winning.

Tom Karst of The Packer reports that Wal-Mart Stores Inc., facing a lawsuit from the family of a man who died after eating a cantaloupe bought at one of its stores – one of 33 who died in the 2011 listeria-in-cantaloupe.salmonellacantaloupe outbreak —  is now suing the grower, distributor and the grower’s third-party auditor.

In a complaint filed in Wyoming federal court in late January, Wal-Mart asserts third-party claims against Edinburg, Texas, distributor Frontera Produce Ltd., auditors Primus Group Inc. and Bio Food Safety Inc., and Jensen Farms. Primus subcontracted Bio Food Safety to undertake the on-site audit of the cantaloupe farm, which resulted in a superior rating of 96%.

The third-party complaint is tied to a wrongful death lawsuit brought in Wyoming against Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart by Frederick Lollar, the husband of the deceased woman..

Bill Marler, Seattle food safety attorney handling about 45 of the 66 victim cases related to the listeria outbreak, said it is not unusual for a retailer to bring action against upstream suppliers, but Wal-Mart’s naming of a third-party auditor is unusual.