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Foodborne Illnesses, Who is Held Liable

foodborne illnesses

People can suffer injuries and illness from many types of food that are eaten every day. These problems can occur at home, in a restaurant or anywhere else food is served. For many who handle food products safety is not a focus. But food safety negligence can cause illness and even death from poorly handled or prepared foods. When foodborne illnesses occur or someone is injured from a food product, a personal injury attorney can help ensure negligent parties are held responsible and victims gain compensation for their injuries.

Gravity of the Problem

The Food and Drug Administration reports that each year around 48 million Americans become ill, experiencing 128,000 hospital stays and 3,000 deaths due to problems with food. Many of the issues with food surround salmonella, E.coli, toxoplasmosis, listeria, choking hazards, food temperature and other factors.

Personal Injury and Product Liability

When the negligent party in food-borne illness or injury are food manufacturers, preparers or distributors, the problem may relate to poor treatment of the food to prevent growth of bacteria and sufficient preparation to remove other contaminants. Temperature is a factor in many foodborne problems and food handling practices must include compliance with temperature rules. Negligence is often the issue when food is improperly refrigerated, heated, preserved or stored. People who handle, organize and store food products may purposefully cut corners to reduce expenses or make their own workload lighter. Such actions can cause contamination of the food products and may led to severe, long-lasting injury or even death of those who consume the cuisine. On occasion, there are also cases involving intentional food tampering.

Whether food damage or contamination is purposeful, a result of negligence or accidental, a party in the chain of distribution may be held liable, such as the distributor, retailer, manufacturer or dining establishment. If an employee is responsible for the contamination, the employer may be held responsible in a claim due through vicarious liability principles.

Sources of Foodborne Illnesses

There are several more frequently seen foodborne illnesses, including salmonella, listeriosis, E.coli and toxoplasmosis.

  • Salmonella is caused by bacteria that originates in the digestive tracts of birds and other animals. Salmonella bacteria is spread to humans when people consume foods that already contain it. To kill salmonella in food, the food must be properly washed, cooked or refrigerated. Surfaces that raw meats touch must be cleaned thoroughly to ensure cross-contamination of foods and other surfaces does not occur.
  • Listeriosis is a severe yet rare infection derived from bacteria in food. The most vulnerable to listeriosis are pregnant mothers, infants, the elderly and people who have compromised immune systems.
  • E.coli is a harmless bacteria when it remains in the intestines of humans or animals. But some strains of the bacteria can cause sickness that includes severe cramping, bleeding and vomiting.
  • Toxoplasmosis is a parasite-driven infection. These parasites are in the environment, such as in cat feces, but can be harmful if allowed to contaminate food.

Prevention of Foodborne Illnesses

Prevention is the means of ensuring food is as safe and consumable as possible. All food should be thoroughly washed before being eaten. Some foods require more extensive cleaning than others and foods of different varieties should be stored separately to avoid cross-contamination. When consuming or preparing food, it is important to keep yourself safe through proper hand-washing for no less than twenty seconds using soap and water.

Foodborne illnesses can also develop through bacteria transferred throughout kitchen surfaces, such as on cabinet doors, counter tops, refrigerator surfaces and other areas. Food must be stored properly, in the right temperature according to guidelines for the type of food using clean containers. Finally, food preparation must ensure food reaches the correct temperature for safe consumption.

Seek Legal Counsel

If you or someone in your family has contracted a foodborne illness, it is important to contact a lawyer who understands food contamination and product liability cases. An experienced personal injury lawyer can provide the support and guidance you need to determine if a case should be filed and who has been negligent in the food handling. For a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your personal injury claim call Hirsch & Lyon Accident Law now at (602) 691-7278.


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