Not feeling well after that big meal? Chances are it's not because you over indulged at your favorite restaurant. Foodborne illnesses are unfortunately becoming more common. According to Elisabeth Hagen, Under Secretary of Food Safety for the U.S. Agriculture Department, one in six Americans will be sickened this year by contaminated food. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that food poisoning accounts for an estimated 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths across the U.S. each year.
Food contamination can occur at any point in the production process, whether it be growing, harvesting, processing, storing or shipping. However, the transfer of pathogens from one surface to another commonly leads to food poisoning. This is especially troublesome for raw foods, such as salads or other produce. As such, harmful organisms are not destroyed before consumption.
Regulatory agencies have made progress in reducing illnesses caused by Campylobacter, Listeria, Shigella, and Yirsinia. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has implemented many new rules and methods to ensure that safe products are available for public consumption. Through the Food Safety Modernization Act, the FDA now partners with other agencies to focus on illness prevention.
Nevertheless, Salmonella and E. coli are still common threats to the nation's food supply. A recent outbreak of salmonella-infested turkey processed in Arkansas has already caused the wrongful death of one person and left 77 more seriously ill. Salmonella is found in raw or contaminated beef, poultry, milk or egg yolks. It can be harmful in food that is not fully cooked, or through infected cutting surfaces.
E. coli is commonly found in beef contaminated with feces during the slaughtering process. It can also be found in contaminated vegetables such as spinach and alfalfa sprouts. Most food poisoning victims experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea for up to 48 hours.
Recently the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Agriculture reported a Salmonella outbreak linked to a hatchery that supplies chicks and ducklings to suppliers. The outbreak has spread to nearly 15 states.
Consumers can do several things to protect themselves from Salmonella poisoning. First, proper storage is essential. Meats should be stored at cool temperatures, and frozen as needed. Meats should also be cooked thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria. Vegetables should be washed properly before use in salads or other dishes. Also, consumers should be mindful of washing all utensils used in food preparation.
If you have been harmed through food poisoning, an experienced Ohio foodborne-illness attorney can advise you of your rights and options.