Even with all the federal safety regulations for food handling, processing, and distribution, foodborne illnesses are still common. Approximately 48 million Americans sustain food poisoning each year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. That’s the equivalent of one out of every six people.
Underlying Sources of Food Poisoning
There are thousands of kinds of bacteria and other tiny organisms all around us that pose no risk to humans. But when harmful bacteria (pathogens) or other disease-causing organisms contaminate food, it can lead to food poisoning, a catchall term for varying types and degrees of foodborne illness.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) states that there are four causes of food poisoning.
- Bacteria and viruses: These are the most common underlying causes of food poisoning. Some of the types of food-related bacteria and viruses that make humans ill include Salmonella, Norovirus (Norwalk Virus), Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria, and Clostridium perfringens.
- Parasites: Parasites on food can cause foodborne illness by setting up house in your body and depriving you of nourishment. The most common parasites found on foods in the U.S. are protozoa, roundworms, and tapeworms.
- Mold and toxins: Both natural toxins and toxic chemicals can contaminate food as well. Examples of food-related toxins include mold, pesticides, and melamine.
- Allergens: When someone is allergic to a certain food, the resulting reaction can also be classified as a foodborne illness. Nuts, dairy, and shellfish are three common allergen culprits.
Food Poisoning Caused by Negligence
Many cases of food poisoning are caused by another party’s negligence. If the contamination was preventable and the food handler didn’t take reasonable and necessary steps to handle the food safely then that person may be held accountable for your illness.
Any person or entity along the food supply chain may be responsible for the food contamination, such as the following.
- Food growers
- Food processors (farms, slaughterhouses)
- Retailers (grocery stores, restaurants)
If there is a direct link between your foodborne illness and the particular food that you ate, the company may be legally liable for the damages their tainted food caused. You can pursue recompense by filing a product liability claim.
Note, you will have to be able to prove that the company could have prevented your illness had they taken reasonable safety measures, and you’ll need to trace the contamination back to its source, which could be any of the parties named above. A food poisoning injury attorney can help you determine your next steps.
Long-Term Effects of Food Poisoning
Serious cases of food poisoning can have extremely detrimental effects. The DHHS explains that the following conditions are some of the potential lasting repercussions of foodborne illnesses.
- Kidney failure: specifically, hemolytic uremic syndrome is an infection that can occur after being infected by E. coli.
- Chronic arthritis: people can experience a painful condition known as reactive arthritis after a Shigella or Salmonella infection which can lead to chronic arthritis that is difficult to treat as well as debilitating.
- Brain and nerve damage: meningitis after a listeria infection, especially for infants
- Guillain-Barré syndrome: this is a nervous system disorder that causes paralysis. Up to 40 percent of people with Guillain-Barré syndrome developed the disorder after an infection with Campylobacter.
- Death: the viruses and bacteria that cause the most death in the United States are Salmonella, E.coli, Listeria, norovirus, Campylobacter, and Clostridium perfingens.
Contacting an Attorney for Food Poisoning Claims
It’s highly advisable to consult an attorney after a serious foodborne illness to determine if you qualify for a settlement. For a free legal consult in California, contact our product liability lawyers at Hiden Rott & Oertle LLP today: 619-296-5884.