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Mushroom Listeria Case Causes Four DeathsThere are numerous mushrooms that grow in the wild that are poisonous, and it is difficult to tell the difference between a safe and deadly wild mushroom. Health professionals recommend that consumers only eat mushrooms that they buy in a store or are served in a restaurant. However, it is still possible to get food poisoning from eating store-bought mushrooms. A recent listeria outbreak linked to packaged mushrooms resulted in four deaths and 30 hospitalizations.

Outbreak Details

Sun Hong Foods recalled its packages of enoki mushrooms on March 9 due to potential listeria contamination. Thirty-six people across more than a dozen states had reportedly become ill with listeriosis, and half of the patients said they had recently eaten mushrooms. Tests conducted on enoki mushrooms sold in California found that they were contaminated with listeria. Enoki mushrooms are long and white with small caps and are commonly used in cuisine from Asian countries. Listeria can contaminate fresh-grown produce through soil, water, and animal feces. Once listeria infects a food processing facility, it can spread to other products in the facility.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listeria is the third-leading cause of food-poisoning deaths in the U.S. People who are elderly, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women are the ones who are most at risk from listeriosis. Among the recent outbreak, six pregnant women became ill and two lost their fetuses. People who are sick with listeriosis may experience fever, muscle aches, headaches, stiff neck, and a loss of balance.

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Jimmy John’s Receives FDA Warning About Contaminated ProduceThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to the sandwich restaurant chain Jimmy John’s, claiming that the franchise has repeatedly purchased adulterated produce. The FDA identified sprouts and cucumbers as the adulterated products and cited five outbreaks of E. coli or salmonella linked to the restaurants since 2012. Though Jimmy John’s removed sprouts from its stores as a precautionary measure, the FDA said the franchise needs to take corrective action to prevent such outbreaks from continuing to occur. E. coli and salmonella infections can be potentially fatal to young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

What Is Adulterated Produce?

Adulterating food normally refers to adding or replacing ingredients in a food product that may cause harm to those who consume it. For instance, a food manufacturer may replace a natural ingredient in its product with an artificial one, which causes people to become sick upon eating it. In the Jimmy John’s case, the E. coli and salmonella are not artificial ingredients but poisonous substances that have contaminated the produce. Though the producer did not intentionally add the contaminants, it still meets the legal definition of adulterated because there is enough of the contaminant to cause harm.

History of Outbreaks

The FDA accused Jimmy John’s of lacking the control mechanisms to prevent it from continuing to purchase contaminated produce. As previously referenced, the FDA cited five recent food poisoning cases:

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Differentiating Between Food Poisoning and a Stomach VirusIf you are experiencing sudden stomach pain, nausea and/or diarrhea, there are generally two possible causes: food poisoning or stomach flu. Both of their symptoms are similar enough that it is difficult for you to tell the difference. However, the difference between food poisoning and stomach flu can determine whether someone may be liable for your medical expenses and suffering. Illinois has strict liability for food poisoning cases while catching a stomach virus usually falls out of the realm of liability. This is one reason why you should see a doctor, who can diagnose the cause of your sickness.

Catching the Stomach Flu vs. Contracting Food Poisoning

The “stomach flu” is not actually a strain of influenza but a gastrointestinal virus that inflames your digestive system. The virus is passed person-to-person by coming in contact with an infected person or surfaces they have contaminated. You can catch a stomach virus if an infected person is preparing your food, but it is more common to catch it from the people you interact with.

By contrast, you contract food poisoning strictly from ingesting food that contains bacteria or parasites. Because you know that unsafe food was the cause of your illness, it is easier to figure out which food was the likely source of the bacteria. Human negligence in storing or preparing food is often to blame for the contamination.

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Cut Fruit Causes Salmonella Outbreak in 11 StatesSalmonella is one of the most common sources of food poisoning in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 1.35 million people receive salmonella infections each year, which leads to 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths. People most often associate salmonella with eating raw or undercooked meats. A CDC study published in 2011 found that 67 percent of the salmonella outbreaks came from poultry, eggs, pork, and beef. However, salmonella bacteria can contaminate any food, including fruits and vegetables.

Cut Fruit Tied to Recent Outbreak

Tailor Cut Produce recalled several cut fruit products on Dec. 7 because of the risk of salmonella contamination. The products included:

  • The Fruit Luau cut fruit mix
  • Cut cantaloupe
  • Cut honeydew melon
  • Cut pineapple

According to the CDC, the salmonella outbreak is believed to have infected 96 people from 11 states – including one person from Illinois. Twenty-seven of those patients were hospitalized, and there are no reports of related deaths. Tailor Cut Produce sold the fruit to food service companies that served it to patrons in schools, hospitals, and hotels. In this case, a victim would seek compensation from the original seller of the contaminated fruit and not the institution that served the fruit – unless that institution still served the fruit after learning about the recall.

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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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