Food poisoning (foodborne illness) can range from minor discomfort to death. If you’ve ever been a victim of even moderate food poisoning, you know it’s no picnic.
The listeria bacteria found in contaminated Blue Bell ice cream in 2015 was linked to ten foodborne illnesses in four states, including three deaths in Kansas. This pathogen is one of the deadliest.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that annually, one out of every four in the U.S., or over 76 million people, get food poisoning by eating or drinking contaminated food or beverages. More than 325,000 require hospitalization and over 5,000 die each year.
In light of this, it might be wise to understand how food poisoning can affect anyone, anywhere.
Food poisoning and its causes
One contracts food poisoning by ingesting any one of countless different kinds of bacteria that find their way into food and beverages. The ones we hear most about are e-coli, salmonella, shigella, botulism and listeriosis.
The most common way you can get a foodborne illness is through negligence and unsanitary procedures, on the part of a food producer or restaurant. People can also get it by eating spoiled food in their homes, or ingesting food with dirty hands containing harmful bacteria. (Kids, listen to your mother, and always wash your hands before eating!)
In the case of Blue Bell, the FDA released inspection reports in May, 2015 concerning the ice cream plants in Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas. They noted unsanitary food-handling practices, chipped ceiling plant above food processing areas, improper handwashing procedures, employees wearing soiled outer garments, and a failure to test the plants’ surfaces for potential foodborne pathogens.
These failures can be replicated in any food-based business, as well as in your own home.
Symptoms of food poisoning
Food poisoning has nasty symptoms, such as nausea, severe cramping, vomiting, trouble breathing, dizziness, vision problems, and diarrhea. These can also be accompanied by fever and muscle aches. Not all pathogens result in immediate symptoms. Those poisoned by listeria, for example, can show symptoms after a few days of ingesting contaminated food, but it can also take weeks or months. Some bacteria simply incubate more slowly than others.
Those most susceptible who contract food poisoning are pregnant women, the elderly, babies, and those with weakened immune systems.
What to do if you suspect you have food poisoning
If you suspect you might have food poisoning and your symptoms become severe, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Medical personnel will question you about what you may have eaten and where you ate. If food poisoning is suspected, medical personnel will administer lab tests to determine which pathogen made you sick. By law, doctors are required to report any positive test to the local health department.
Most people recover without treatment within a few days. More severe cases may require replacement of lost fluids, antibiotics, and other medications.
I must add that usually, it is very difficult to connect the person being sick with a bacterial problem caused by food poisoning. In order to have a successful settlement, there must be a verified medical connection between the illness and the alleged food poisoning. However, if the emergency room and other medical personnel report the same illness many times over from the same location, like what happened with Chipolte, the health department will verify it, and add substantial strength to a claim.
If you were a victim of food poisoning due to the negligence of a business, you should contact a personal injury attorney. If you have any questions about it, give me a call at 501-374-6300.
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