Food poisoning occurs when a contaminated food product is consumed and creates illness. Food poisoning can be caused by chemical contamination of food products but more commonly, is a type of infection that occurs due to contamination with microorganisms. Contamination of food which contributes to food poisoning can occur at any point during food production from the farm to the table. It may be a result of improper hygiene or inadequate cooking processes at home but may be a result of commercial food handling practices. When food poisoning results in foodborne illness or injury due to contamination that occurs in food processing, preparation, packaging or storage, companies may be liable for compensation for those injuries and illnesses. Victims of food contamination whose foodborne illness was caused by a commercial establishment or company may need to consider a food poisoning lawsuit in order to seek compensation for their injuries. Compensation in past food poisoning lawsuits has included financial awards for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering and in some cases, punitive damages.
Common Food Poisoning Causes
While food poisoning can be caused by chemical contamination, most cases of food borne illness are related to microbial or microorganism growth. Bacteria or toxins produced by bacteria are the most common cause of food poisoning but in some cases, viral, fungal and parasitic microorganisms may be involved. Common causes of microbial food contamination include:
- Botulism (Clostridium botulinum toxin) in improperly canned foods or foods kept at the wrong temperature
- E. coli (Escherichia coli O157:H7) in beef, milk or vegetables that were contaminated with feces
- Listeria (Listeria monocytogenes) in deli meats, unpasteurized dairy and unwashed produce, even if refrigerated or frozen
- Salmonella (Salmonella enterica, Salmonella bongori) in raw or contaminated meat, dairy or eggs
Less common causes include:
- Clostridium perfringens
- Giardia lamblia
- Hepatitis A
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Vibrio vulnificus
Read more about Food Poisoning causes.
Food Poisoning Symptoms
Most food poisoning cases have similar symptoms which affect the gastrointestinal tract. In more rare cases, symptoms are specific to the type of contamination and may be more severe, serious or even life-threatening.
Common food poisoning symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Mild flu symptoms
Medical treatment should be sought if fever is higher that 100.4, changes in consciousness occur, urine or feces contains blood or diarrhea symptoms last for more than three days. If symptoms are severe or affect children, food poisoning should be treated as an emergency.
Food Poisoning Settlements
Food poisoning is a common occurrence, but most cases occur at home or are mild and do not require medical treatment. When food poisoning is severe and is caused by a commercial or industrial facility, events may be publicized and depending on the type of food product or facility, may result in a food recall and national publicity.
Notable food poisoning events have included:
- Maple Leaf Listeria – contaminated lunchmeat killed 20 people and sickened hundreds more, Maple Leaf foods paid $27 million to settle claims
- ConAgra Peanut Butter Salmonella – am $11.2 million settlement was reached after tainted peanut butter affected over 750 people
- Jack in the Box E. coli – a $15.6 million settlement was reached with the family of a girl who died after eating contaminated, improperly cooked hamburger meat at a restaurant
- Odwalla E. coli – contaminated, unpasteurized fruit juice injured multiple people and caused deaths of multiple children, resulting in an estimated settlement of $15 million
In many of these cases, food poisoning settlements have been offered but most involve non-disclosure agreements with undisclosed settlement terms and amounts.
Food Poisoning Lawyer
According to the CDC, food poisoning affects over 48 million people each year in the U.S. Up to 128,000 of these people may end up in the hospital and hundreds may die. Most of these cases are due to food poisoning which may occur at home but in cases where food poisoning is the responsibility of a commercial agency or industrial facility, the company is liable for damages and injury. Seeking assistance through a food poisoning lawsuit may be the only answer.
Whether the food poisoning event was caused by a restaurant, a food packaging company or other commercial facility, finding the right attorney to handle a food poisoning lawsuit is critical in obtaining fair compensation. If a child is injured, death occurs or severe, permanent injury is caused by the foodborne illness, obtaining experienced legal advice may become even more critical.