Photo via Flickr user Calgary Reviews
There's something special about when Walmart pops up in news.Earlier this week it was controversy over a dirty t-shirt allegedly found in a PlayStation virtual reality headset box. Last year we saw 30-person brawls, hidden meth labs, and a slow-motion electric scooter chase. And then there are those hall-of-fame worthy headlines, like the Saskatchewan woman that left a newborn in a Walmart toilet.
No matter how outlandish, stories like these always seem steeped in an essential Walmart essence. The same goes for the company's latest PR mess: 174 charges that it sold food contaminated by the Fort McMurray wildfire. Because of course.After the devastating fire that razed a large chunk of the oil and gas town last May, city and health officials told grocery stores to throw out most food products, save for sealed canned goods. The reasoning was that potentially carcinogenic smoke and residue could have contaminated the food.Read More: I Tried to Spend 24 Hours in a WalmartCourt documents allege that Walmart went against that direction, and even lied to health inspectors about it."Despite having received this guidance and direction from [Alberta Health Services], both in person and in writing, it is our belief that Walmart reopened selling wildfire-contaminated food to [the] public," reads a statement from the health regulator. "This was a direct and avoidable risk to the health of this community."Walmart was supposed to throw out soft drinks, juice, chocolate bars, candy, chips, dried fruit, coffee and tea, cereal, dried pasta, yogurt, milk cheese, frozen pizza, eggs, frozen veggies, peanut butter, and bacon, among other things.At this point it's not clear whether these items were rebranded as "lightly smoked," or whether Walmart took advantage of the obvious "fire sale" signage opportunity. If found guilty, the company could pay $2,000 to $5,000 in fines for each of the charges.As the case now makes its way through the courts, we'll keep an eye out for more Walmart news for the history books in 2017.Follow Sarah Berman on Twitter.