Eating is a part of everyone’s daily requirements for life. Because of this, manufacturers have an essential duty to maintain and distribute food products that are safe for consumers. However, there are times when food can be distributed in an unsafe manner, including contaminated foods, negligently prepared foods and foods containing foodborne illnesses. Injuries can result from the intake of these foods, and they can cause very serious health conditions as a result.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report between 70 and 80 million cases of food poisoning each year in the U.S. Food poisoning causes about 325,000 hospitalizations and up to 5,000 deaths each year.
What Illnesses Can You Get From Food?
Bacteria, viruses and parasites are among some of the pathogens which can contaminate improperly prepared food or raw food. Some examples of these include: salmonella poisoning, hepatitis A, Noroviruses, shigellosis, campylobacterosis, E. coli poisoning, listeriosis and toxoplasmosis. Foods can become contaminated after improper preparation, improper food storage or improper sanitizing. The signs of food injury illness can begin anywhere from several hours after ingesting the food to several days later as the contaminated food is digested in the body.
Georgia Food Laws
The Georgia Legislature has passed the Georgia Food Act, found under O.C.G.A. §§ 26-2-20- 26-2-41. This is a consumer protection statute as it helps protect consumers from mislabeled, misbranded foods as well as acts as a prevention tool to contaminated food production, sale and distribution.
Bacteria Causing Food Injury
One of the most common types of food poisoning is salmonella. It accounts for $1 billion in medical costs alone. The side effects of salmonella include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and other side effects such as joint pain, reactive arthritis and other serious health conditions.
Listeria is a type of bacteria found in vegetation, raw milk, meat, cheeses, soil, salad vegetables and poultry. The symptoms of listeria include flu-like symptoms. This type of bacteria seriously affects a person’s immune system.
E. coli is one strain among hundreds found in the bacterium Escherichia coli. This strain has a very strong toxin that may cause illness and, in some cases, death. It starts off with watery diarrhea and then eventually turns into bloody diarrhea. This type of bacteria has caused kidney failure and death. Ways the bacterium is spread is through undercooked hamburgers, contaminated well water and/or unpasteurized juices or milk.
Viruses Causing Food Injuries
Viruses account for more than half of food injury cases.
Norwalk virus: This virus causes nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, low-grade fever, headache and stomach pain. This is the most common virus caused by food poisoning. It’s usually spread from water, vegetables (contaminated by feces), from person to person and from shellfish.
Rotavirus: This virus can also be spread through contaminated food. The symptoms of rotavirus include fever and watery diarrhea.
Another common virus that causes food injury is Hepatitis A. The symptoms include a loss of appetite, tiredness, fever and yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice). There have been extreme cases of Hepatitis A which can lead to a need for a liver transplant and may even cause death.
Signs to look for when your food may be contaminated:
- Severe vomiting
- Vision trouble
- Speaking trouble
- Breathing trouble
- Muscle weakness
- Swallowing trouble
- Fever that is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit
- Stomach pain
The attorneys at Childers, Schlueter & Smith, LLC have investigated several salmonella outbreaks and investigate new cases involving catastrophic injuries on a regular basis. In 2008, Georgia had the second-highest rate of salmonella incidents out of a 10-state study.