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Airline Meals Are Frequent Source of Food PoisoningAirline food is often the source of jokes because of its reputation for poor quality. Many will remember the classic comedic film “Airplane!,” in which a majority of the passengers of a flight become ill after being served fish for dinner. Food poisoning from airline food is very real and not a laughing matter. It is difficult to track how many people contract food poisoning from food served on airplanes because passengers can disperse across the country or around the world. However, we do know from individual complaints and government inspections that there are numerous cases of food poisoning that originate from airline food.

Startling Findings

Third-party food catering services provide most of the meals that people eat on airplanes. The federal Food and Drug Administration is responsible for inspecting the caterers for health code violations. A recent investigation by NBC News reported that the FDA has documented several violations in the past four years, such as:

  • Listeria contaminations in facilities
  • Expired food being used
  • Food that was not stored at a safe temperature
  • Cross-contamination between raw and cooked meats
  • Fans blowing dust on food
  • Condensation dripping water on food
  • Bird and rodent feces in facilities

The investigation also claims that the FDA inspects airline catering facilities once every three-to-five years, as opposed to local health inspectors visiting most restaurants at least once a year.

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Foreign Objects in Food Pose Danger to ConsumersMost sources of food poisoning come from natural contaminants such as bacteria that infect the food during processing or as a result of improper refrigeration. Consumers can also be injured or become sick from foreign objects that they find in their food. For instance, an Illinois sausage company recently recalled more than 1,000 pounds of pork sausages under the label “Berkshire Natural Casing Sausage” because at least one package contained pieces of plastic in the meat. If you ingest a foreign object that was mixed in your food, you should treat the situation as if it is a food poisoning case, including seeking compensation.

Possible Contaminants

The foreign objects that you may find in food are often associated with the people handling the food, the tools they use during preparation, and the condition of the preparation site. Objects may include:

  • Packaging materials
  • Staples or nails
  • Bits of glass or metal
  • Hair or feces
  • Insects and rodents

There have been horror stories about outrageous items found in food packages, such as human fingers and syringe needles. Finding a foreign object in your food is an obvious example of negligence by the party that prepared the food.

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Five Ways to Prevent Food Poisoning for the HolidaysYou will likely enjoy multiple large meals with family and friends this holiday season – even before the traditional Christmas Day feast. Unfortunately, there is always the chance that something you eat will cause you to become sick from food poisoning. No one wants to spend the holidays dealing with stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or other food poisoning symptoms. As the host of a meal or preparer of a dish, you could be liable if others get food poisoning from the food that you served. Here are five tips for avoiding food poisoning at holiday meals:

  1. Check for Food Recalls: Food producers and sellers are sometimes the ones who are liable for their products containing bacteria or other contaminants. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service may issue a recall on a product if food poisoning cases are believed to be connected to the product or there is a reason to believe that the product has been contaminated. Do a simple internet search on food product recalls in case you purchased a product that has been recalled.
  2. Thawing Your Turkey: It can take a while to thaw a frozen turkey, and thawing it in the wrong way will give time for bacteria to grow inside it. The safe ways to thaw a turkey are in a microwave, a refrigerator, or a sink filled with cold water that you change every half an hour.
  3. Use Food Thermometers: Meat, seafood, and eggs need to be fully cooked in order to kill harmful germs. The FDA has minimum temperatures that these foods should reach for them to be safe to eat. Do not guess that your food has been cooked long enough. Use a meat thermometer to check its temperature.
  4. Keep Food Heated or Refrigerated: Bacteria can start growing in food if you let it sit out for a couple of hours at room temperature. If you have finished cooking food that you plan to serve later, you should either immediately refrigerate it at a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or keep it hot at a temperature above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Clean While You Cook: The bacteria from preparing raw meat can contaminate other foods if you are not careful to sterilize your hands and any surface that may have come in contact with the meat. Use soap and warm water before and after preparing each dish.

Contact a Chicago Food Poisoning Lawyer

If you have become seriously ill from food poisoning, you may need monetary compensation for your medical expenses and related costs. You may not like the idea of filing a lawsuit against a family member or close friend, but you may be able to deal with an insurance company instead if you ate the contaminated food at someone’s home and the host has home owner’s insurance. It is also possible that a food company was responsible for your poisoning. An Illinois food poisoning attorney at Newland & Newland, LLP, can advise you on your options for obtaining compensation. To schedule a consultation, call 312-981-0409.

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Lettuce E. Coli Outbreak Hits U.S. for Third YearThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 67 people have become sick since Sept. 24 due to E. coli found in romaine lettuce. Consumers are warned to not eat romaine that was grown in Salinas, California, and to avoid purchasing romaine if it does not say where it was grown. According to the CDC, 39 people have been hospitalized, with six of those patients developing kidney failure. Illnesses have been reported across 19 states, including one person in Illinois who was hospitalized. The CDC is still investigating the source of the contamination and whether products from other areas are contaminated.

History of Outbreaks

This is the third consecutive year that the same strain of E. coli has been linked to leafy greens sold in the U.S.:

  • In 2017, 25 people in 15 states became ill with E. coli between Nov. 5 and Dec. 12, with one patient in California dying. The CDC identified leafy greens as the likely source of the outbreak based on patient interviews but were unable to identify a specific type of leafy green that was responsible.
  • In 2018, 62 people in 16 states were infected with E. coli between Oct. 7 and Dec. 4, with 25 of them being hospitalized. Investigators traced the contamination back to a water reservoir for a farm in Santa Barbara, California, which provided romaine lettuce for retailers and restaurants. The CDC was unsure of why there was E. coli in the water supply and in which ways the water contaminated the lettuce.

Lettuce and E. Coli

It is imperative to throw out lettuce that is believed to have been contaminated by E. coli and to sterilize the drawer that it was in. People usually show symptoms from an E. coli infection after three or four days, which commonly include stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. Scientists and lettuce growers do not know what is causing the continued E. coli contaminations or how to prevent them. Suspected causes include:

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Produce Linked to Many Food Poisoning Cases in U.S.Raw fruits and vegetables are undeniably an important part of a nutritious diet, but they can also be a source of food poisoning. In fact, a 2015 study from the Centers for Disease Control found that almost half of the reported food poisoning cases from 2008 to 2012 came from eating raw produce. The CDC cited several possible reasons for this:

  • People are eating raw produce more often.
  • The cleaning process on some farms actually traps harmful bacteria in the produce.
  • Some bacteria cannot be removed by washing it off.

If you are certain that eating fresh fruits or vegetables caused your food poisoning, then you may be entitled to compensation from the people that grew or packaged the products.

Apples Recall

As a recent example, a Michigan company recalled apples it had shipped out from Oct. 16 to 24 because of possible listeria contamination. The apples were sold in bags with the brand names Great Lakes and North Bay Pure Michigan and distributed to retailers and wholesalers in eight states, including Illinois. No listeriosis cases had been reported at the time of the recall. Companies often issue voluntary recalls in advance of outbreaks because they know they could be liable if a consumer became sick. Listeriosis is usually not life-threatening to healthy adults but can be more serious for children, the elderly, and pregnant women.

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