Food poisoning has been in the news. Most recently, 150 people were sickened with salmonella after eating at Taco Bell restaurants. What is food poisoning? Do victims of food poisoning have legal rights?
Food poisoning or food borne illness occurs when food contaminated with bacteria, parasites or viruses is consumed. Typically, the contamination occurs as a result of improper food processing, handling, preparation or storage. Poisonous chemicals, pesticides, and other harmful substances can also cause food borne illness.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) track food borne illnesses. In 2007, the CDC recorded more than 21,000 illnesses in about 1,100 outbreaks in 48 states and Puerto Rico. There were 18 deaths from food poisoning. However, the CDC believes that only about 5% of all food borne illnesses are ever reported. They estimate that 87 million cases of food-borne illness occur in the United States each year, including 371,000 hospitalizations and 5,700 deaths.
The CDC recently released a report that covers food poisoning outbreaks in 2007. An outbreak occurs when two or more people are sickened by the same food. The report shows that poultry is the leading culprit in food poisoning outbreaks. Chicken, turkey and other poultry accounted for 17 percent of the food-borne illness outbreaks reported to the government in 2007. Beef and leafy vegetables were close behind, at 16 percent and 14 percent. No cause was found for about one-third of food borne illnesses.
Poultry was also the leading source of food poisoning outbreaks in 2006.
Salmonella and other kinds of bacteria were responsible for about half of the outbreaks. Bacterial infections like salmonella are spread because of improper hygiene or improper cooking. Rodents in food packaging and distribution facilities are the most common source of Salmonella contamination. Salmonella was the cause in two of the largest food poisoning outbreaks of 2007: hummus and frozen pies.
Viruses, especially norovirus, caused about 40 percent of food borne illnesses. Norovirus is spread when food workers don't wash their hands.
Mushroom toxin or other chemical agents were to blame for 7 percent of outbreaks. Parasites accounted for 1 percent.
Several things can cause an outbreak. For example, an infected person might contaminate the food while handling it. A contaminated food may be left out a room temperature for hours, allowing bacteria to multiply. It may not be cooked enough to kill the bacteria.
The source food poisoning can be hard to trace because symptoms may appear several hours to several days after the contaminated food is eaten. Symptoms of food poisoning may include:
- Upset stomach
- Abdominal cramps
While anyone may contract food poisoning, pregnant women (and their fetuses), infants and children, the elderly, and the severely ill are at risk for severe complications, permanent disability, and even death.
Food poisoning is a serious injury. When manufacturers, growers, restaurateurs and retailers are negligent in ensuring proper food handling and hygiene, they may be considered liable for =damages when their tainted food is consumed by the public. If you or a family member has suffered from food poisoning from a pre-packaged food or from eating at an Ohio restaurant, you may have a question about your legal rights. Chester Law Group can help. Contact the Akron personal injury attorneys at Chester Law Group, 800-218-4243, to learn more.