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Wadena Lanes owner's death linked with salmonella outbreak

Wadena Lanes owner Shirley Almer was one of two Minnesotans whose deaths are being linked with a salmonella outbreak affecting 43 states, according to her daughter, Ginger Lorentz of Brainerd, Minn.

Almer died Dec. 21 at age 72 in Brainerd.

Almer was staying at Bethany Good Samaritan Village in Brainerd, when she became ill and had to be taken to the hospital emergency room where she died, Ginger said. The death was unexpected.

"We planned to take her home Monday, she passed away on Sunday," Ginger said.

The family is still learning more and more about the situation, she said. She called the Department of Health on Monday to confirm that the elderly woman it has been referring to in connection with the outbreak was her mother.

"It's fairly new," Ginger said.

MDH lab tests discovered salmonella bacteria in King Nut peanut butter produced by Peanut Corp. of America, according to a press release. As of Jan. 14, MDH is reporting 33 Minnesota cases associated with the outbreak, including Almer and the death of a man in his 70s with underlying health problems.

Almer's family has filed a lawsuit in connection with the salmonella-contaminated peanut butter, using the services of Pritzker Law. Ginger and one of her brothers held press conferences Thursday, she said.

The family is filing the lawsuit and holding the press conferences because they hope to prevent something like this from happening again, Ginger said. They are very angry about the contamination.

"There's no excuse for it," she said.

Peanut Corp., issued a voluntary recall of the peanut butter, which is not sold in retail stores, according to a company press release. It is only available for institutional and food service industry use.

Ginger fed her mother peanut butter at the nursing home a couple of weeks before she died, she said. As far as she knows, that is the last time Almer had peanut butter. Almer was staying at Bethany Good Samaritan Village to recover from a urinary tract infection, Ginger said. She battled lung cancer two years ago and was diagnosed with a brain tumor this summer, Ginger said. Almer was cancer free since October.

Almer was the full owner of Wadena Lanes up until the time of her death, Ginger said. Her mother was a very kind and generous person who was very patriotic and involved with her business. She stayed active even in her retirement, she said.

Almer "enjoyed bowling, dancing, gardening and especially spending time with her family," according to her obituary published in the Jan. 1 edition of the Pioneer Journal.