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Chicago food poisoning attorneyThis year has been a challenging time for businesses everywhere, especially those deemed essential workers. Government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), fall within this category and have continued to work despite the threat of the COVID-19 virus. As the pandemic reaches its tenth month in the U.S., many businesses have become accustomed to working during these unprecedented times. FSIS recently released its annual accomplishments in modernizing the agency and fulfilling its mission to prevent foodborne illness throughout the United States.

Working During the Pandemic

FSIS employs approximately 9,000 employees who are spread across laboratories, federally regulated establishments, import establishments, or in-commerce facilities. According to the agency’s fiscal year report, no FSIS regulated establishments closed as a result of absent inspection personnel. The agency called on other USDA employees when necessary to supplement any missing workers due to the pandemic. This allowed FSIS to inspect over 166 million head of livestock, 9.68 billion poultry carcasses, 2.5 billion pounds of egg products, and more.

Improving and Modernizing 

Each year, FSIS strives to modernize its inspection systems and operations to protect public health. In 2019, the agency published the final rule on the Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection, as this is a common source of foodborne illnesses. The new rule includes two parts: mandatory microbial testing requirements at all swine facilities and the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS). The NSIS requires additional offline inspections that directly impact public health while continuing 100 percent carcass-by-carcass inspection. Since being passed in 2019, seven plants have successfully converted to this new system in the past year. 

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Chicago food poisoning attorneysMany food products are recalled in the U.S. each year because of the risk of food poisoning related to the products. Unfortunately, the recalls often do not occur until after at least several people become sick from eating the food. For instance, Wawona Packing Company recalled packages of peaches in August because of suspected salmonella contamination after 68 confirmed cases and 14 hospitalizations. The peaches are sold in Aldi stores in nine states, including Illinois. Despite efforts to warn the public, some people become sick from eating a contaminated product even after a recall. To protect yourself, you need to know where to find information on food recalls and what to do if you have a recalled product.

How Do I Learn About Food Recalls?

Food recall orders often originate from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which are the government organizations that investigate outbreaks of foodborne illness. Sometimes, the producer will issue a voluntary recall of the product after it learns of possible contamination. National and local media will often report prominent food recalls, and the FDA and CDC can also communicate directly with the public through social media. If you want to be proactive in learning about food recalls, you can sign up for food safety alerts from the FDA and CDC or check their websites, where they post details about recent recalls.

What Should I Do If I Have a Recalled Product?

The recall notice will give instructions on how to identify a recalled product and possible health risks related to the product. If you find a recalled food product at your home, you should:

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Chipotle Fined $25 Million for Repeated Food Poisoning OutbreaksRestaurants are the source of numerous food poisoning incidents each year for which they may or may not be responsible. Sometimes, the restaurant will unknowingly use contaminated food and the food supplier is the liable party. Other times, the restaurant may have caused the incident if it was negligent in safely preparing the food or maintaining a clean kitchen. If a single restaurant or chain of restaurants is involved in multiple food poisoning incidents, health officials may investigate the food safety practices of the restaurants. Officials can even recommend that criminal charges be brought against the restaurant for serving contaminated food.

Chipotle Pays Record Fine

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California fined Chipotle Mexican Grill $25 million for two counts of severing adulterated food in its restaurant. Chipotle agreed to pay the fine – which is the largest ever for a food safety case – and claimed that it has already spent millions more to improve its food safety practices. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration traced at least five food poisoning outbreaks to the restaurant from 2015 to 2018 that are believed to have sickened more than 1,100 people. The cases included multiple norovirus outbreaks in different restaurants across the country. The allegations against the company included:

  • Improper training of employees in food safety practices
  • Not keeping food at high enough temperatures to prevent the spread of pathogens
  • Employees feeling pressured to continue working despite feeling sick
  • Restaurant managers not reporting incidents of employees vomiting at work to company safety officials until after customers complained about becoming sick

Norovirus is a pathogen that can be easily spread in a restaurant if infected employees are handling the food. Symptoms from norovirus can take 12 to 48 hours to develop and include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. Most patients improve in one-to-three days.

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Aspen Foods Recalls Breaded Chicken Amid Salmonella Scare

Aspen Foods of Chicago is continuing its recall of frozen chicken products after receiving more reports of salmonella illnesses linked to their products. The products recalled include packages of breaded Chicken Kiev, Chicken and Broccoli, and Chicken Cordon Bleu. This recall comes after the company issued a previous recall in July 2015.

Salmonella infection can lead to serious, even deadly, complications. When a company's product is found to be responsible for a consumer's illness, that company may be held liable for the consumer's medical costs and other economic losses caused by the illness. If you or your child became ill after consuming a product such as the products listed above, you could be entitled to a monetary settlement. Contact an experienced food poisoning attorney today to begin this discussion.

Recognizing Recalled Products is Key

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Cilantro Cyclospora Outbreak Continues

A cyclospora outbreak traced to cilantro has infected 218 people so far this summer, making it the third consecutive summer that the parasite has travelled to the United States.

The 2013 Outbreak

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