It’s only the first quarter of 2018 and we’ve seen multiple nation-wide recalls of certain food items that are suspected of causing food poisoning illnesses like Salmonella, Listeria, and E.coli. This includes recalls of shell eggs, smoked salmon spreads, Brie cheese, fresh food salads, and others. Even raw dog food has been recalled due to its possible Salmonella contamination.
In addition to those recalls already mentioned, currently in the news is a nationwide notice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concerning romaine lettuce. Initially, the warning was to avoid eating chopped romaine lettuce grown around Yuma, Arizona. This was based on 53 reported illnesses and 35 hospitalizations in 16 states. Five people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a food poisoning complication that can be life-threatening.
On April 20, 2018, the CDC expanded its warning to include all romaine lettuce, including whole heads and romaine hearts, or any type of salad mix that contains romaine. The updated warning follows an outbreak of food poisoning in Alaska. Reports are that the folks in Alaska who became ill had eaten romaine that came from whole heads of romaine which was apparently also grown in the Yuma area.
Although there have not been any reported incidents of romaine lettuce poisoning in Georgia, the CDC cautions all people in all states to avoid eating any kind of romaine lettuce, whether a whole head or prepackaged and chopped. If you already purchased it, throw it away even if someone has already eaten some if and not gotten sick. The lettuce may be contaminated by a strain of Shiga toxin producing E.coli. If it did not come from the Yuma area, it might be okay, but if you cannot determine where it originated, do not take the risk. Toss it!
Sometimes, the specific cause of a foodborne illness cannot be traced to a specific contaminated food, but is believed to be due to lapses in the food preparation process. In the fall of 2017, 50 students at Georgia Tech who ate at campus dining facilities reported symptoms of food poisoning. Health department officials visited the campus to investigate. Campus dining services evaluated their food preparation process in an attempt to find the source of the contamination in order to prevent it from happening again.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning and Those Who are at High Risk of Becoming Sick and Suffer Complications
People get sick from E.coliand other food contamination illnesses from between two and eight days after ingesting the toxin, with most becoming ill within three to four days. Symptoms include severe abdominal cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and blood in the stool. Although most people recover in about a week, some suffer serious complications.
Anyone can develop a food-borne illness, but those who are at the greatest risk of becoming sick or suffering serious consequences as a result of the illness, are:
- The elderly.
- Pregnant women.
- Young children under 5-years old.
- Those who already have a compromised immune system.
- Cancer patients.
- HIV/AIDS patients.
The CDC estimates that every year, 48 million people get sick from food-borne contaminants. More than 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die as a result of their illness.
Growers, Manufacturers, Distributors, and Food Preparers May All Be Responsible for Food-Borne Illnesses
The World Health Organization (WHO) states, “Food can become contaminated at any point of production and distribution and the primary responsibility lies with food producers.” WHO also notes that those who prepare food are also responsible for making sure it is not contaminated.
An example of potential liability is shown by a current case involving a Marietta couple who initially enjoyed their 2017 Mother’s Day outing at one of their favorite chain restaurants. They both ate the same thing. They both got sick. The husband recovered in just a few days, but the woman’s illness lingered and she even had to be hospitalized for 12 days. It took her months to recover.
In addition to their medical expenses in excess of $100,000, they had childcare costs since the mother could not take care of the child, and the husband lost wages when he needed to stay home and take care of his debilitated wife who was “bedridden for about a month” and had to have IV antibiotics for quite some time. The couple sued the restaurant where they ate, alleging they were negligent in their food preparation process resulting in contaminated food. Although they have not stated a specific amount of their damages, they seek, at a minimum, to be compensated for their out-of-pocket losses.
If you became sick after eating, whether the food came from the grocery store, at a restaurant, farmer’s market, or fast-food eating establishment, it is likely there was negligence somewhere in the chain of production. This may include the food growers, suppliers, processors, distributors, preparers, and others. Contact Georgia Trial Attorneys for a free consultation. We will review the circumstances of your case. If we believe there has been negligence in your case, we will advise you on the best plan of attack.