A McCreary County couple have filed a $6.5 million lawsuit against Kraft Foods alleging the husband sustained a perforated bowel and peritonitis from a piece of metal he ingested when he ate microwavable Velveeta Shells & Cheese.
Leamon Perkins of Pine Knot underwent surgery Sept. 29, one day before Kraft Foods Global recalled the microwavable dish, according to the complaint in U.S. District Court in London filed Jan. 11.
The voluntary recall was due to the possible presence of small, thin pieces of wire bristle, according to Kraft officials.
About 137,000 cases of the affected product were shipped to customers across the United States, company officials said.
The lawsuit said the shells and cheese "contained pieces of metal which caused the product to be hazardous and dangerous if ingested."
Perkins is requesting $6 million in compensatory and punitive damages; his wife, Lisa Perkins, is seeking $500,000 for her loss of consortium.
According to the complaint, Leamon Perkins bought the item from Sam's Club in Louisville and ate it Sept. 21. He became seriously ill and was admitted to Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital in Somerset on Sept. 29.
"A CT scan was performed which revealed 'a linear metallic foreign body within the small bowel in the mid abdomen.' ... Plaintiff's diagnosis was small bowel perforation from metallic foreign body," the complaint said. Perkins had peritonitis, which can be a life-threatening inflammation, the lawsuit said.
Perkins was taken to surgery immediately, and a significant portion of his small bowel had to be resectioned to remove both "the metallic body" and the portion of the bowel that had been damaged by the ingested metal, according to the complaint.
One of the Perkins' attorney's, A.V. Conway, declined to comment.
Kraft spokeswoman Lynne Galia said Monday that she could not comment on specific litigation.
"I can tell you we take consumer contacts and complaints very seriously. Food safety and quality are our highest priorities," she said.
Galia said Kraft had not had any confirmed cases of the wire bristles in the recalled product or consumer injuries. In regard to Perkins' lawsuit, Galia said, "We have not been able to investigate this incident yet."
Galia said Kraft "discovered small, extremely thin wire bristle pieces in the manufacturing equipment used to make some flavors of Velveeta Shells & Cheese microwavable cups during a routine inspection."
As soon as the discovery was made, Galia said, Kraft notified the FDA and "advised them of our plans to issue a recall."
"While we have very strong food safety systems in place, including metal detectors and X-ray machines, the bristles were too fine to be detected," she said.
Galia said Kraft has "conducted a thorough review of our food safety processes and have installed additional equipment that can detect extremely thin wire bristle pieces."
"We immediately began an internal investigation to determine the root cause of the issue," she said. "We have now identified the problem and have taken steps to try to prevent it from occurring again."
The affected products were manufactured in Champaign, Ill., and Lakeville, Minn., according to the September recall notice.
Reach Valarie Honeycutt Spears at (859) 231-3409 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3409.