Food poisoning (also called “ food-borne illness”) is caused by consuming foods contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, or other toxins. While FDA regulations and recalls are meant to prevent tainted foods from reaching consumers, sometimes dangerous foods slip through the cracks and make their way onto our tables. In turn, injuries caused by food-borne illnesses are one of the most common forms of personal injury claims. This section provides information on different sources and types of food poisoning, including E. coli, Listeria, Norovirus, and Salmonella. In addition, you'll find tips on preventing food poisoning, federal government resources on food safety, and much more.
Food Poisoning: A Legal FAQ
If you've been food poisoned, you likely have many question, including whether or not to file a lawsuit. In most situations, a person who is injured by another person’s negligence can sue the party that caused his or her harm. This holds true in cases of food poisoning. For instance, a restaurant that serves a dish causing food poisoning, or a food company or store that sells contaminated meat or dairy products may be held accountable depending on the circumstances. A personal injury lawsuit or product liability lawsuit may be able to recover compensation for medical costs, hospital bills, lost income, and other damages. Lawsuits are more common when there has been a well-documented contamination of the food supply.
Food recalls are very common. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for the regulation and safety standards of approximately 80 percent of the food supply in the U.S., both domestic and imported foods. The FDA is also responsible for overseeing the safety of pet foods. The remaining 20 percent, primarily meat, poultry and some egg products, is regulated by a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) known as the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Because food recalls are expensive and stigmatizing for the recalling companies, they are usually highly motivated to clean up their mess as quickly as possible.
Foods Most Associated with Food Poisoning
Harmful bacteria are the most common cause of food-borne illnesses, with symptoms ranging from upset stomach to fever and severe vomiting. Food can become contaminated at any phase of the production and preparation process, from the farm to slaughterhouse to the grocery store or in the restaurant or home. Meat, poultry, eggs, shellfish, and dairy are the foods most associated with food poisoning.
The McDonalds Hot Coffee Case
We've all heard the story. McDonalds served scalding hot coffee to a 79-year-old women who received third-degree burns over 16 percent of her body. She refused to settle and the jury awarded her $2.7 million in punitive damages for McDonalds callous conduct. But this case had further implications about food warning labels. A widespread products liability issue, such as this, can affect the lives of hundreds, even thousands, of people.
Types of Food Poisoning
At least 250 different kinds of food poisoning have been documented, but the most common ones are e. coli; listeria; salmonella; and norovirus, which is commonly called "stomach flu."
How a Products Liability Attorney Can Help
You can always attempt settle a claim of injuries from food poisoning by yourself. However, it is most often the case that the defendant, especially if they are a business, has an attorney. To best protect your rights, have your own attorney review your claim at no charge. Then, if you decide you have a claim you want to pursue, you can take that next step.