How Safe is Our Food? A Look at Food Poison Risks

by Terry Bryant

Think about your last meal. Did you prepare it yourself? Maybe it came from a fast-food restaurant or was brought to your door by a delivery driver. Perhaps you went to a potluck dinner with friends or family.

Whatever your last meal might have been, the chances are good that the food you consumed was handled by several different people before it reached your plate. That’s because our food supply chain is a complex, interwoven network of farmers, processors, distributors, and other businesses.

The troubling aspect of this complex network is that contamination can happen at any point in this process. Even more troubling is the fact that close to 50 million people suffer from food poisoning every year in the United States. That means that 1 out of every 6 Americans will get food poisoning this year.

Understanding Food Poisoning

When people talk about food poisoning, they are referring to the presence of certain pathogens – bacteria or viruses – that make us sick. Many illnesses, like those caused by infections or noroviruses, are spread through food and, thus, could be classified as food-borne illnesses.

Proper handling of food reduces the likelihood of dangerous pathogens. That’s one of the reasons there are guidelines regarding the temperatures at which meat should be cooked. It’s also one of the reasons that food should be thrown away after it sits in your fridge for a long period.

Some food-borne illnesses resemble a stomach bug, and they go away after an extremely unpleasant day or so. However, some are very dangerous and could potentially lead to severe health consequences, including death. Salmonella, E. coli, and listeria are examples of the most dangerous food-related outbreaks.

How Food Poisoning Happens

Many people tend to think of food poisoning as something that occurs during or immediately following preparation, and there is truth to that notion. For example, an outdoor gathering – like a potluck or barbecue – can be a likely place for poisoning. That’s because food sits out at room temperature for long periods and is exposed to several people. Cruise ships are notorious for food-borne illness outbreaks for many of the same reasons.

But food poisoning can also happen in restaurants with unsanitary practices. It can occur because a distributor fails to take precautions in testing the food before it is used in preparation.

Let’s consider the E. coli outbreak involving Chipotle restaurants in 2015. Dozens of people became extremely ill after eating at the Mexican food chain and investigators believed the illnesses might have been caused from exposure to pathogens on fresh produce. One patron even filed a lawsuit against Chipotle for $75,000 in damages. The chain experienced intense media scrutiny for the illnesses and even shut down all its locations for a day to reassure the public it had taken sufficient measures to prevent future illnesses.

It’s difficult to know exactly how many cases of food poisoning happen, simply because so many cases go unreported. By the time an outbreak reaches levels that garner recalls or media attention, it has likely already caused several consumers illness or death. When food-borne illnesses lead to significant suffering, legal action can be taken against the responsible party.

Legal Options for Food Poisoning Victims

Food poisoning often happens because food is mishandled by producers, processor, distributors, or cooks. If you’ve suffered serious harm due a food-related illness, you can pursue your legal options and speak to an attorney about who might be at fault and your potential recovery.

At Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law, we have years of experience representing clients suffering from serious injuries and illnesses. If you’d like to speak to our team about a food poisoning, we encourage you to reach out. To schedule a free consultation with Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law, contact us today by filling out our online contact form or giving us a call at 1 (800) 444-5000 or locally in the Houston area at (713) 973-8888.