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Are You at Risk for Food Poisoning?

Sometimes it seems as if every couple of weeks grocery stores or food manufacturers announce a new recall due to the potential of a product's carrying a foodborne disease. With increased news reports over the years talking about foodborne illnesses, public awareness about causes, symptoms, and the general risks has increased. Unfortunately, thousands of people still die each year from one type of contamination or another. Although restaurants are required by law to adhere to strict sanitation codes, it's still fairly common for health inspectors to find evidence of rodents or cockroaches, meats not kept at safe temperatures, and employees who don't wash their hands properly. These types of conditions are not visible to the customer, but can very easily lead to food poisoning.

Foodborne illnesses are a widespread public health issue. It is estimated that each year, 1 in 6 Americans get sick from consuming contaminated foods or beverages. Among the most common causes of food poisoning are:

  • Botulism
  • E. coli
  • Hepatitis A
  • Listeria
  • Salmonella
  • Shigella.

If you suspect that a food is contaminated or has made you sick, you can report the problem to the Florida Department of Health.

The CDC estimates that foodborne diseases are the reason behind approximately 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. One in six people will get sick this year from ingesting contaminated foods or beverages. More than 250 foodborne diseases have been identified and can result in severe medical issues, including kidney failure, chronic arthritis, brain damage, and nerve damage.

Owing to a variety of viruses, bacteria, and parasites, the most common types are:

Botulism – caused by a lethal bacteria that attacks the body’s nerves. It is common for the bacteria to develop in foods that are not prepared or stored properly. Dented or bulging canned goods, in particular, should be avoided.

Shigella -- a highly contagious germ that can trigger shigellosis. Found in the stools of infected people, it can easily contaminate food if food handlers have shigella. Severe diarrhea is the most common symptom. Approximately 500,000 cases are reported annually in the U.S.

Salmonella – very common bacteria that can be found in poultry, beef, pork, dairy, eggs, vegetables, and fruits. Usually transmitted by eating foods contaminated with small amounts of animal feces, consumption may cause salmonellosis.

Hepatitis A – one of five types of hepatitis that harm the liver. Often spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the virus, typically fruits, vegetables, shellfish, ice, and water.

Listeria – The listeria bacteria is killed by pasteurization and cooking. Unlike most bacteria, it can survive in temperatures as low as zero degrees, which means it can thrive in the refrigerator in certain foods. About 1,600 people get listeriosis in the U.S. each year.

E. coli – Most strains of this bacteria are an important part of healthy intestines, but a few are pathogenic and cause illness. Spread when infected people don't wash their hands properly, contaminated food may not look or smell spoiled.

Symptoms of food poisoning can often be mistaken for standard gastrointestinal upsets, but if you experience an unusual combination of headache, fever, abdominal cramping, vomiting, diarrhea and/or exhaustion, think back to what you've eaten recently. People with compromised immune systems, such as those with chronic illnesses (including diabetes, cancer, and AIDS), elderly people, pregnant women, and children are highly susceptible to foodborne illnesses. Foodborne illness can even lead to premature delivery, or in some extreme cases, miscarriage. Some can have a negative effect on the fetus, even if the mother experiences no symptoms. For this reason, pregnant women are encouraged to avoid raw seafood, most smoked seafood, unpasteurized milk, unpasteurized juice, soft cheeses, raw eggs (including things like eggnog, hollandaise sauce, tiramisu, eggs benedict, and Caesar dressing), premade meat or seafood salads, raw sprouts, hot dogs, and undercooked meats and poultry.

If you have any questions about this topic, or if you believe that a negligent manufacturer or restaurant may be responsible for your injury, talk to the food poisoning attorneys at Stabinski & Funt, P.A. As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, we have helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities, and remedies for over 45 years. If you wish to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us today by calling 305-964-8644 or filling out a free case evaluation form.

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