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How Food Poisoning Can Occur at a CookoutLabor Day weekend is the last summer hurrah for many people. That means parties and cookouts for those who want to enjoy the warm weather. Unfortunately, food poisoning may ruin some people’s enjoyment – if not immediately, then in the days and weeks after. The host of a party at a private residence can be liable for your food poisoning, as long as their negligence was the cause of your illness. The host is not the one who is liable if they purchased a product that was later recalled. Here are a few ways that food preparation at a cookout can cause food poisoning:

  1. Undercooked Meat: Raw meat – particularly poultry, pork, and ground beef – has bacteria that is killed when the meat reaches a high enough temperature. Pork and steaks should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, ground beef to 160 degrees, and poultry to 165 degrees. The person preparing the meat should stick a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat to determine the temperature. The eye test is not a reliable way to tell whether meat is done.
  2. Contaminated Surfaces: It is often necessary to prepare raw meat in the kitchen before taking it out to the grill. Any surface or utensil that comes in contact with the meat should be cleaned with hot, soapy water to prevent contamination. Raw meats should be kept separate from other foods, both in the refrigerator and the kitchen. There is a misconception that raw meats should be washed off before being cooked. Doing this may spread the bacteria and contaminate other surfaces.
  3. Improper Refrigeration: Perishable foods need to be refrigerated before and, in some cases, after they are prepared or served. Bacteria can grow in the food when left in temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours. When you arrive at a party, it is possible that the perishable foods have already been sitting out and unrefrigerated for a while. Mayonnaise-based salads left outside for hours are common culprits for this type of food poisoning. Some foods can remain safe if they are continually heated.

Contact an Illinois Food Poisoning Attorney

If the food you ate at someone’s residence gave you food poisoning, there are two questions you should answer before filing a lawsuit:

  • Whose negligence was responsible for the food poisoning?; and
  • If it was the host, do you want to file a lawsuit against them?

The host may not personally pay your damages if their homeowner's insurance covers food poisoning, but taking a friend to court could damage your relationship. A Chicago food poisoning lawyer at Newland & Newland, LLP, can help you decide whether it is worthwhile to file a lawsuit. Schedule a consultation by calling 312-981-0409.


Cyclospora Outbreaks Most Common During Warm Weather MonthsThe Centers for Disease Control reports that there were 580 confirmed cases of cyclosporiasis in the U.S. between May 1 and July 23, 2019. The cases occurred in 30 states and the District of Columbia and have been traced to food served in restaurants and prepared at home. Fresh basil imported from Mexico seems to be the largest source of the outbreak, being connected to 132 infections. In total, at least 38 people have been hospitalized, with no reported deaths. The U.S. commonly experiences an increase in cyclospora outbreaks during the summer months, as opposed to the rest of the year.


Cyclospora is a parasite spread through feces that contaminates food or water. The parasite is most prevalent in tropical and subtropical areas. Travelers to these areas are at greater risk of infection if they consume raw local foods or tap water. Domestic outbreaks in the U.S. can come from fresh produce imported from these tropical areas, including but not limited to:

  • Lettuce;
  • Basil;
  • Raspberries; and
  • Snow peas.

Domestic consumers can best protect themselves from infection by thoroughly washing produce, though this is not guaranteed to remove the parasite.


Marijuana Products Can Be Source of Mold, BacteriaA group of researchers has warned about the dangers of smoking or consuming marijuana, but not for the reason that you may expect. A 2017 study published in the journal “Clinical Microbiology and Infection” found mold and bacteria in the medicinal marijuana products being sold in northern California. The study’s authors said that the pathogens were so widespread that they could not recommend that anyone inhale or ingest raw or dried marijuana. The study highlights the potential dangers of commercial marijuana products in states such as Illinois, which is scheduled to legalize recreation marijuana at the start of 2020. A tainted marijuana product could cause severe illness or even death.

Contaminants Found

The 2017 study claimed that marijuana sold in California dispensaries tested positive for several harmful substances, including:

  • The fungi Cryptococcus, Mucor and Aspergillus; and
  • The bacteria E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Acinetobacter baumannii.

Whether through smoking or edibles, the fungi and bacteria can contaminate the user’s body and cause infection. People with weakened immune systems are at the greatest risk of becoming ill. The study’s authors could not confirm whether the heat of putting marijuana into baked goods or creating extracts would be enough to kill the fungi and bacteria.


How Botulism Can Come from Commercial FoodsCases of foodborne botulism in the U.S. are rare, typically numbering between 10 and 30 each year. Some botulism cases originate from people canning and preserving their own foods. Cracks or leaks in a food container will allow harmful bacteria to grow inside the food. You would not have anyone to file a lawsuit against if your own negligence in storing your food caused your illness. However, there are cases of foodborne botulism coming from commercial food producers, who can be held liable for illnesses that their products cause.

Commercial Canning

Commercially canned foods are less likely to contain bacteria than the food people can themselves at home because businesses have safety standards that they must follow, including:

  • Heating the cans long enough to kill spores that may cause botulism; and
  • Sealing the cans to prevent food contamination.

Foods that are low in acid are more vulnerable to bacteria, such as vegetables, fruits, and fish. You may recognize that canned food is contaminated if the can is bulging or the food gives off a bad odor. However, the bacteria do not always change the food’s taste or odor.


Frozen Vegetables Causing Listeria OutbreaksListeria is a relatively rare yet potentially fatal form of food poisoning caused by bacteria in food. On average, about one in six people who contract listeria die from the symptoms. Listeria is often associated with foods such as:

  • Raw milk;
  • Soft cheese;
  • Deli meats;
  • Raw hot dogs;
  • Raw spouts; and
  • Smoked seafood.

However, there have been multiple incidents in recent years when listeria has been found in frozen vegetable packages.

Recent Outbreaks

Nature’s Touch Frozen Foods recently recalled its Signature Select Avocado Chunks because of potential listeria contamination. The product was sold in nine different store brands in 15 states, mostly in the western half of the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control previously investigated a listeria outbreak that started in 2013 and forced CRC Frozen Foods to recall all of its organic and frozen vegetables and fruits. Nine people were hospitalized and three of them died, though only one person was believed to have died from listeria. In 2018, nine people in Europe died from a listeria outbreak that was traced to a frozen vegetable brand distributed in 107 countries.

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