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Too often food poisoning is more than just a day or two of illness. For many, it can lead to long term complications or health problems. Did you know that a seemingly minor bout of Salmonella infection can cause inflammatory bowel disease, Shigella poisoning can lead to Reactive Arthritis, or that Campylobacter can cause Guillain-Barré Syndrome?
The statistics are staggering. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that each year 48 million Americans get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. For those doing the math, that means that one in six people living in the United States will get sick with food poisoning each year. With over 31 known foodborne diseases that can make us sick, these numbers continue to grow each year and do not appear to be slowing anytime soon.
This is not even accounting for chemical agents or undeclared allergens that too account for a large number of illnesses per year. Undeclared allergen illnesses alone account for more than 30% of illness reports to the Food and Drug Administration each year.
Science and health agencies are doing everything they can to reduce these numbers. The Food Safety Modernization Act has also helped push forward this goal, especially when it comes to imports. But it isn’t yet enough to eliminate the problem. Without medical intervention and timely diagnosis, it is hard to get to the bottom of the issue – and do something about it. Foodborne illnesses are severely underreported.
Health agencies are hoping to combat these foodborne epidemics by encouraging Americans to get medical care for food poisoning symptoms, request proper testing and diagnosis of disease, and to report illnesses to their local public health agency. Through timely diagnosis and reporting, not only can a sick individual get the medical care they need to reduce the risk of developing long-term compilations, but it can help reduce the likelihood of more illnesses. Health agencies can identify food contamination and remove unsafe food from store shelves. Health agencies can also identify where contaminated food came from and work to make food safety changes or have better surveillance of the origins of the tainted food.
But sometimes change needs a push. Reporting foodborne illnesses puts public health agencies on notice. It also helps them detect potential outbreaks, advise companies to recall contaminated products, and develop methods of advanced notice or prevention of future outbreaks.
If you believe you became ill from food you ate at a restaurant or bought at a grocery store, it is important to call your local health department to prevent a potential outbreak and protect others from becoming sick.
The health department will determine whether food may have made you sick and, if so, will investigate to see whether other people have become ill from the same food or location. If several people ate at the same restaurant, the health department will inspect the restaurant to identify any problems that must be corrected. If the possible cause of your illness is processed food, fruits, or vegetables from a grocery store, the health department will work with other government agencies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine if a specific product needs to be recalled.
Reporting food poisoning will also benefit your potential claim for compensation; since the health department may discover evidence of negligence or link your illness to a specific product.
A food poisoning lawyer will do everything they can to hold the responsible party accountable for losses you have suffered because of your illness. To do so, they will:
Any contagion can potentially cause a foodborne illness. However, the following contaminants are the most common culprits:
The toxin is usually passed on by rice products, starchy food such as pasta and potato, cornflour, custards, soups, and vegetables. The onset period is 1 to 6 hours.
Botulism transmission is usually by improperly canned or low acid or fermented foods, smoked fish in vacuum packs, and vegetables in oil. Onset period is 2 hours to 8 days.
Campylobacter transmission usually comes from handling raw or eating undercooked chicken, other meats, meat products, and water. Onset period is 1 to 10 days.
It is usually passed on by meat, meat products, poultry, gravy, rolled joints, and stews. The onset period is 4 to 24 hours.
Ecoli is usually passed on by cooked foods, especially buffets, water, milk, cheese, seafoods, and salads. Onset period is 1 to 8 days.
Hepatitis A is typically passed on through food or liquids contaminated with fecal matter, raw shellfish, contact with other infected people. The onset period is 15 to 50 days (usually 28 days).
It is usually passed on through raw milk, soft cheese, coleslaw, raw vegetables, raw and cooked meat, raw and undercooked poultry, raw and smoked fish, pâté, fermented sausages, salads, and cook-chill products. The onset period for Listeria is 1 day to 3 months.
Norovirus transmission is usually shellfish, ice, desserts, cold meats, salads, and some fruits. Onset period is 10 to 50 hours.
The Salmonella toxin or infection is usually passed on by poultry, raw egg products, meat, dairy products, cheese, mayonnaise & sauces, salad dressings, and can be by bean sprouts & coconuts. The onset period is 6 to 72 hours (usually 12 to 36).
Transmission of the toxin is usually through contaminated foods, water, milk, salads, fruits, sandwich fillings, bakery products (e.g., cream-filled pastries), and shellfish. The onset period for Shigella is 1 to 3 days.
The toxin is usually passed on via cooked meat, meat products, poultry, egg products, salads, cream products, milk, or dairy products. The onset period is 1 to 7 hours.
Vibrio transmission of the infection is by raw, improperly cooked, or re-contaminated shellfish and fish. Onset period is 2 to 96 hours.
Not sure where to start? The process is simple: