Contaminated onions at Torchy’s Tacos led to child’s organ failure, Texas lawsuit says

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A boy who ate onions while having dinner at Torchy’s Tacos in San Antonio two months ago is still fighting a salmonella infection linked to onions served by the restaurant, according to a lawsuit recently filed in Texas.

The lawsuit comes as a multistate outbreak of salmonella infections linked to onions is under investigation.

The child’s family, represented by food safety firm Marler Clark, says his infection started a week after eating contaminated onions on Aug. 21 at the Torchy’s Tacos on Sonterra Place. They have since filed a lawsuit in Bexar County District Court against the taco chain, a management group and an onion supplier.

In a statement provided to KENS of San Antonio, Torchy’s Tacos said it learned of the allegations last week.

At Torchy’s, our number one priority is providing safe and delicious food to our guests,” the statement says, according to KENS. “We take this claim very seriously and have retained nationally respected food safety experts to track our food supply in August to see if they can find a connection between food we served then and this claim.”

The chain also said it has a “uniform record of excellent health inspection scores, including a 100-score routine inspection from the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District as recently as October 8, 2021.”

“Our thoughts are with this guest and his family and we hope for continued recovery,” Tochy’s Tacos said in the statement provided to KENS.

Torchy’s did not say if it received onions from ProSource Produce.

The child’s infection

In the lawsuit filed by mother Ching-yi Ortiz on behalf of her minor son, whose age was not released, it says his symptoms started with exhaustion and a headache, but escalated with “increasing intensity” over the next 10 days.

“He developed a fever, diarrhea, and sharp pain in his lower back,” the law firm said in a news release. ”He was taken to the Prestige Emergency Room on September 3, 2021, but an examination failed to yield a diagnosis.”

Four days later, the boy “was in such intense pain he could not walk or sit up,” the lawsuit says. He was then taken to Methodist Children’s where he was treated for complications connected to a Salmonella Oranienburg infection, according to the lawsuit.

His infection led to sepsis, organ failure and pneumonia, the lawsuit says, among other conditions, including “extreme pain” as the infection reached his bones.

“In 28 years representing victims of foodborne illness, (this child) is one of the sickest Salmonella cases I have seen for someone that survived,” said food safety attorney Bill Marler.

The family is seeking $200,000 in damages to compensate for medical care, pain and suffering, metal anguish, disfigurement and loss of wages, the lawsuit states

Salmonella outbreak

The family is suing Torchy’s Tacos, Success Foods Management Group, LLC and ProSource Produce, LLC with accusations of distributing and serving contaminated onions.

Marler Clark says this is the first lawsuit filed against ProSource Produce, LLC in connection to “a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Oranienburg infections linked to whole, fresh onions.” The outbreak is under investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ProSource Produce, LLC is one of two producers connected to the outbreak.

The onions imported from Mexico from July 1 through Aug. 31 were voluntarily recalled by ProSource Produce LLC on Oct. 20, two months after the boy ate at Torchy’s Tacos.

“This voluntary recall is being conducted out of an abundance of caution, in cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), based on reported illnesses which have been associated with the possible consumption,” the supplier said in a news release.

As of last week’s news release, the Idaho company said no onions marketed under ProSource had tested positive for salmonella.

“These onions supplied by ProSource Produce LLC and Keeler Family Farms were sold to restaurants, food service locations, wholesalers, and retail or grocery stores throughout the United States,” the FDA said. “The investigation is ongoing to determine the source of contamination and if additional products or firms are linked to illness.”

As of Oct. 19, 652 people have been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Oranienburg. A map from the CDC shows most of those infections are in Texas and Oklahoma.

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