A class action lawsuit was filed in the First Circuit Court in Hawaii on August 23, 2016, against Genki Sushi, Koha Foods and Sea Port Products Corp. The action is a result of Hepatitis A exposure at Genki Sushi after patrons consumed raw, imported scallops. The class action is being filed by those that did not get sick.
Hepatitis A is a disease that causes inflammation of the liver. It is a very contagious disease that can be spread eating or handling contaminated foods, an infected individual that does not wash his or her hands after using the bathroom and touches food or other objects, and through sexual contact.
According to a Kohn2 news July 1 article, 12 individuals had acquired the disease. It was determined that the illness onset dates were between June 16 and June 27, 2016. Due to the outbreak of the disease, Hawaii health officials investigated and found that there was a link between the victims and the consumption of scallops at Genki Sushi.
As a result of its findings, the Hawaii Department of Health issued a warning that any individuals who may have been exposed should have a Hepatitis A vaccine or an immune globulin shot within two weeks of exposure. Individuals that work handling, preparing or serving foods must be tested and must be negative for hepatitis A before they will be allowed to return to work. If food preparers have been vaccinated before they were exposed to the disease, they may return to their regular duties. If symptoms of the disease develop, individuals should contact their doctor and remain at home.
According to the Federal Food and Drug Administration, FDA, Sea Port Products Corp initiated a recall of frozen Bay Scallops that were produced on November 23 and 24, 2015 and distributed in Hawaii, California and Nevada. The product was sold to restaurants and other food service preparers.
To date, over 200 individuals have come down with the disease. That number does not include the number of individuals that have been exposed but have not shown any symptoms. According to Food Safety News, a Seattle attorney, Bill Marler, stated, “This is quickly becoming one of the largest Hepatitis A outbreaks in U.S. history. Given the number of people that consumed scallops at Genki Sushi and became ill and worked at other restaurants on the islands, we estimate that over 10,000 people needed to be vaccinated to prevent an even larger disaster.” Marler has joined the Hawaii plaintiff attorneys in filing the class action lawsuit.
The class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of all people that were exposed to Hepatitis A at Genki Sushi restaurants from April through August. Plaintiffs are seeking reimbursement for vaccinations, shots and/or tests that were required as a result of their exposure to the disease, lost wages, and other damages. The lawsuit is also aimed at raising awareness of the importance of Hepatitis A vaccinations.
With food inspections, new technology, and quality assurance programs, food borne illnesses should be diminishing rather than increasing. It is unthinkable that someone in the inspection process did not find out that the seafood was contaminated before it distributed. I would expect that another class action lawsuit will be filed on behalf of those who did come down with the disease.
Editor’s note: for a more in-depth look at Hepatitis, please see this article.