Food poisoning, or food-borne illness is on the rise around the world. Most people have experienced food-borne illness in some way, however, severe cases can lead to long-term illness and even death. According to the World Health Organization, hundreds of millions of people worldwide are getting sick from their food each year. In Illinois, food poisoning victims can file for compensation to cover injuries and suffering caused by food contaminants.
Food Poisoning- The Growing Problem
Food poisoning cases fill today’s headlines. From restaurant related illnesses, to sickness caused by eating contaminated pre-packaged foods, the threat of food poisoning is very real.
In the United States alone, foodborne contaminants are responsible for around 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths a year. In fact, it’s estimated that one in six Americans are affected by foodborne illnesses. High-profile cases account for just a fraction of the foodborne illnesses experienced by Americans annually.
Identifying the Symptoms of Food Poisoning
Those suffering from a foodborne illness may experience a range of symptoms, including:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle Aches
High-risk groups include infants, older people, pregnant women and those suffering from chronic illnesses. Symptoms generally begin around six hours after consuming food, depending on the type of contamination.
Food Poisoning Causes
Three specific pathogens, Salmonella, Listeria and Toxoplasma account for 1,500 deaths each year. Most of the remaining deaths are caused by unknown agents. Symptoms of foodborne illnesses include everything from mild gastroenteritis to life-threatening renal, neurologic and hepatic syndromes.
More than 200 known diseases are transmitted through food and illnesses include viruses, parasites, bacteria, toxins and prions.
The CDC publishes an annual summary of foodborne outbreaks and illnesses by food category and state. An outbreak of a foodborne disease is an occurrence of two or more cases of a similar illness resulting from eating a common food. An average of 3.3 foodborne diseases occur per 1 million population.
There are many practices that can lead to foodborne illnesses including:
- Failure to properly sanitize food preparation surfaces
- Not washing hands
- Placing foreign objects in food
- Improper food storage and handling
- Keeping food at an unsafe temperature
- Contamination of soil or water
- Coughing or sneezing near food or preparation surfaces
- Using unclean utensils
- Undercooking meats
It’s not always easy to identify the cause of a foodborne illness, especially when dealing with an isolated case. Contamination of food can happen during any process of its production, from harvesting to shipping to preparation.
Food Poisoning and Liability
Foodborne illnesses can be caused at any point of the food preparation process. For this reason, multiple parties in the chain of distribution could be involved in a lawsuit. This chain of distribution generally includes the food processing plant or farm, any suppliers or distributors and the entity that prepared or sold the food.
In cases where many people have been affected by a food-related illness, a class-action lawsuit may be filed, and victims might have the opportunity to join this lawsuit at little or no cost.
Food Poisoning Lawsuits
Proving that a foodborne illness was caused by the negligence or wrongdoing of another is often a challenging prospect. A Chicago personal injury attorney can work with victims to establish a case and gather evidence from witnesses and experts.
An Illinois law, established in 2013 requires that restaurant workers and other designated “food handlers” receive specific food safety training. Food service establishments that provide in-house training are required to have their programs approved by the state in order for the training to be valid.
The Illinois Department of Health oversees programs that ensure that foods that are manufactured, processed, packaged or stored in the state are safe. Food processing plants and warehouses must be regularly inspected.
In order to prove that an illness was caused by food, it must be traced back to the contaminant and proven that it was this contaminant that caused the illness. If there is a time delay before symptoms arise, this can prove to be particularly tricky. If a government health agency has linked a certain food to an outbreak of food poisoning and it can be proved that this food was consumed, filing a case is considerably easier.
Most personal injury cases involving food poisoning are considered “product liability” cases. This means that a person was, basically, sold a defective product. In some cases, scientific testing is warranted, in order to prove that a contaminant was actually present in the food.
In restaurant cases, a case could be made for negligence or breach of warranty if a safe environment with safe food was not offered.
Taking legal action against those responsible for foodborne diseases helps victims to reclaim costs paid for hospitalization and medical visits and prevents further instances from taking place.