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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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Listeria Threat Linked to Pre-Packaged SandwichesListeria outbreaks in the U.S. are rare compared to other forms of food poisoning, but food manufacturers and regulators take the potential of an outbreak seriously. For instance, Lipari Foods recently issued a voluntary recall of some of its pre-packaged sandwiches because they potentially contained listeria monocytogenes. The products included chicken salad and ham and cheese sandwiches under the Premo, Fresh Grab, and Lipari Old Tyme brand names. Lipari Foods distributed the sandwiches to retailers in 15 states, including Illinois. There were no reported illnesses connected to the recalled products as of the announcement of the recall on Oct. 8. A listeria infection, known as listeriosis, can be life-threatening, depending on the patient.

Those Most Vulnerable

Symptoms of listeriosis may appear as soon as a day after eating contaminated food or take weeks to develop. The severity of the symptoms depends on whether the infection has spread beyond the gut – known as invasive listeriosis – and may include:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Stiff neck
  • Loss of balance

Healthy adults rarely develop long-lasting illnesses from listeriosis, but the infection can be more serious for children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. Patients with invasive listeriosis often require hospitalization, and about one in five patients die according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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Pumpkin Food Poisoning Is Rare But SeriousAmericans go wild for pumpkin-flavored products every fall, adding the gourd to a variety of foods. Can you get food poisoning from pumpkins? It is unlikely that adding pumpkin spice to your food will cause food poisoning, but pumpkin products can cause some nasty illnesses in rare situations. Understanding how pumpkins can become poisonous to humans may protect you from a food poisoning incident or help you identify pumpkins as the source of your illness.

Toxic Squash Syndrome

Pumpkins are classified as cucurbits, a family of flowering gourd plants that also include cucumbers, melons, and squash. Cucurbit poisoning, also known as toxic squash syndrome, occurs when a person eats a cucurbit that contains an elevated level of cucurbitacin E. Symptoms of toxic squash poisoning can include:

  • Nausea;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Abdominal pain;
  • Vomiting;
  • Dizziness; and
  • Hair loss, in rare instances.

Cucurbits naturally develop cucurbitacin in order to protect themselves against insects. Wild squash and cucumbers contain higher levels of cucurbitacin than those grown for consumption because they must survive in harsher environments. However, domestically grown cucurbits can develop unsafe levels of cucurbitacin if they are cross-pollinated with wild plants or grown with inadequate water or fertilization. You can identify a poisonous cucurbit by its extremely bitter taste. It is important to spit it out because even a few bites can poison you.

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Which Foods Are Most Likely to Cause Food Poisoning?Tracing the source of your food poisoning can be more difficult than you might expect. Food that is contaminated with harmful bacteria does not always look or taste strange. Symptoms can manifest in a short as an hour or as long as weeks. A wide variety of foods can be responsible for food poisoning. When trying to solve the mystery of a food poisoning case, your clues are the type of food poisoning you have and the foods you have eaten recently. A doctor will identify the food poisoning and its possible source, but you must create a retroactive food journal to identify the source. To help, here are seven foods most often associated with food poisoning cases:

  1. Poultry: Raw poultry – such as chicken, turkey, and duck – are near the top of most lists of products that can cause food poisoning. Poultry has a high rate of bacterial contamination that can make you sick if it is undercooked.
  2. Raw Produce: Fruits, vegetables, and spouts can carry bacteria on their leaves and skins, often coming from the soil and water where they are grown. Freezing fresh produce may not kill the bacteria. It is important to wash raw produce before eating it.
  3. Seafood: Fish and shellfish can become contaminated if they consume harmful bacteria while alive or are not properly refrigerated after being caught. In some cases, cooking the seafood may not be enough to eliminate the toxins.
  4. Deli Meats: Deli meats can contain bacteria that grew during processing or after improper refrigeration. Some deli meats are commonly eaten without being cooked again, such as sliced sandwich meats. Others, such as hot dogs and bacon, should be fully cooked to reduce the chance of food poisoning.
  5. Eggs: Eggs have a high risk of salmonella poisoning if they are eaten raw or undercooked. It is not advised to eat dishes that are meant to have raw eggs.
  6. Unpasteurized Dairy: Food poisoning from milk was once common before the pasteurization process became standard. Unpasteurized dairy products have not been heated to kill the bacteria that can grow in raw milk.
  7. Rice: Rice can have bacterial spores that continue to live inside it while uncooked. However, the cooking process does not kill the spores, which may grow if the rice is left in a warm, moist environment. Cooked rice should be served immediately and refrigerated afterward.

Contact an Illinois Food Poisoning Attorney

Identifying the source of your food poisoning will help you determine whether you should file a food poisoning lawsuit. A Chicago food poisoning lawyer at Newland & Newland, LLP, can help you collect compensation from the party that was negligent in handling or preparing your food. Schedule a consultation by calling 312-981-0409.

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