A slew of recent food poisoning outbreaks linked to a “groceries store” in California have added fuel to the public health argument that the chain, which sells items at its store in Irvine, California, may be to blame.
In recent weeks, a series of reports and articles have linked the “gourmet” store chain with dozens of deaths, including at least five deaths linked directly to contaminated produce.
But in a statement Thursday, the Irvine-based chain said that it has no links to any food poisoning cases.
The chain said it has taken steps to minimize exposure to contaminated products and has implemented an “aggressive” food safety policy.
But the chain also acknowledged that it is “a company that operates on the wrong side of history.”
In addition to the three confirmed deaths linked by the Orange County coroner to contaminated fruit and vegetables, a fourth death was reported Wednesday.
That death was linked to two cases of coronavirus in a California hospital, the coroner’s office said.
The four deaths, which occurred between Feb. 11 and March 4, occurred in the Orange-Osceola-Santa Barbara-San Joaquin Delta region, a region that includes Irvine and Santa Ana.
All four victims were treated for exposure to food that was contaminated with the coronaviruses, according to the coroner.
Two other Orange County residents were found dead after coming into contact with contaminated produce at a nearby “garnier’s,” the coroner said.
Investigators believe the “Gourmet” chain is the source of the deaths.
The California Department of Public Health and the California Department for Agriculture have launched an investigation, said Orange County Coroner’s Office spokeswoman Linda Crespo.
She said officials are trying to determine what the cause of death was and whether there is any connection to “Grocery Store” or any other “gift store.”
The chain did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office, which is handling the case, did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment.
“Our investigation continues,” the district attorney’s office wrote in a written statement.
The food poisoning case in California has added to the pressure on “Garnier,” which was the first grocery store chain to open in the U.S. in 2010 and has been selling a wide variety of items since then.
The company has been in business since 1994 and has a total of about 10,000 stores nationwide.
Its product range includes items such as fruit and veggie wraps, baked goods, bakery items, meats and dairy products, frozen desserts, and ice cream, according.
The Irvine-area “Garden” is one of several “Gravy” grocery chains that have been the subject of public health and safety complaints in recent months.
A California-based food safety advocacy group called “Granola on Wheels” released a report in January detailing more than 1,000 cases of contaminated products found at the Irvine, Irvine-owned grocery store in the past six months.
It said it had been working with the Irvine police department and county health department to investigate the death of a 15-year-old boy who came into contact a sample of “Gastropress” fruit at the “Granny Gourmet” on Jan. 23.
The “Grave Danger” group also reported that two of its own volunteers who went to the Irvine “Gardens” store had been exposed to the same fruit in the same location.