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Uncooked Shrimp Can Contain Harmful BacteriaThere are cultures in which raw shrimp is considered a delicacy. However, food scientists do not recommend eating raw shrimp because of the risk of food poisoning. Shrimp can carry bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Normally, cooking shrimp will be enough to kill the contaminants that naturally appear, making them safe to eat. However, pre-cooked shrimp served and sold in retail establishments have been known to carry bacteria and viruses that can cause people to become ill upon eating them.

Cooked Shrimp Recalled Due to Bacteria

In March, AFC Distribution Corp. recalled its Cooked Butterfly Tail-On Whiteleg Shrimp because it may have been contaminated with Vibrio parahaemolyticus. The shrimp were used as an ingredient for sushi sold at retailers in dozens of states, including Illinois. There were no reported illnesses related to the shrimp at the time of the recall.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a bacteria found in saltwater and raw shellfish. Symptoms typically last up to seven days and may include:

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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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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 847-840-8950.

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