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Chicago E. coli injury attorneyUnfortunately, food poisoning is all too common in the United States. Foods can become contaminated by bacteria, viruses, or other toxins at different points in the supply chain, including when they are grown or produced, shipped, or served or sold to customers. E. coli is one of the most common pathogens that leads to food poisoning injuries, and it can have a significant impact on a person’s health. Those who have contracted E. coli will want to understand the potential sources of the infection and determine whether they can pursue compensation from the person or company that was responsible.

Sources of E. Coli Infections

Escherichia coli, which is commonly abbreviated as E. coli, is a bacteria that is found in the intestines of many humans and animals. E. coli infections can occur through:

  • Ground meat - When cows, pigs, or other animals are slaughtered, E. coli bacteria in their intestines may become mixed in with the meat. Packages of ground beef, pork, or other meats will often contain meat from multiple animals, making them more likely to be contaminated. Meat should be fully cooked to kill any bacteria that are present. Infections can occur if meat is undercooked or if bacteria from meat spreads to other food products during storage or preparation.

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Illinois E. coli poisoning attorneyThere are a wide variety of foodborne illnesses that affect people in the United States. Typically, food poisoning occurs because harmful bacteria, viruses, or toxins are present in foods that are made available to consumers, including items sold at grocery stores, dishes served at restaurants, and food products sold or provided at other locations. E. coli is one of the most common foodborne pathogens. It is estimated that 265,000 people in the U.S. are infected with this bacteria every year, and these infections result in 3,600 hospitalizations and 30 deaths.

Shiga Toxin-Producing E. Coli

The most dangerous strains of E. coli produce a substance known as a Shiga toxin, which can cause serious harm to the human body. Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) is often present in the intestines of livestock and other animals, and it may be spread to crops or other plants by these animals. It can also infect food products during the process of packaging, shipping, or preparation.

People who contract an E. coli infection may experience symptoms that involve intestinal distress, including stomach pain and cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Victims may experience a low fever, and in many cases, the illness will run its course within five to seven days. In more serious cases, symptoms can involve severe pain and bloody stool. Children under the age of five, elderly people over the age of 65, and those who have compromised immune systems due to diseases such as HIV or cancer treatments are more likely to experience severe symptoms, and in some cases, their condition may be life-threatening.

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Illinois food poisoning attorneysPeople in the United States are often affected by foodborne illnesses. Even though companies that grow, pack, manufacture, distribute, and sell food products are required to meet certain standards to ensure that these products are safe to eat, some foods still become contaminated, leading to serious cases of food poisoning. Of the many different sources of foodborne illness, E. coli is one of the most common, and over the past several years, there have been dozens of outbreaks that have been linked to lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens. 

Most recently, an E. coli outbreak resulted in 40 infections and 20 hospitalizations across 19 states between August and October of 2020. The majority of the patients interviewed during an investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported eating leafy greens such as spinach or romaine lettuce before becoming infected. However, the CDC was unable to identify a specific source of this outbreak, since the harvesting, processing, and packaging of different types of leafy greens makes it difficult to determine where the original contamination occurred.

Contamination of Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are susceptible to E. coli contamination due to the way they are grown, harvested, and processed. In many cases, animals are raised near where these plants are grown, which may lead to the spread of bacteria to these products. E. coli contamination may also be spread through irrigation or while leafy greens are being harvested and handled. Contaminated products may be included in salad mixes, or cross-contamination may occur in a processing facility, grocery store, or restaurant.

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Illinois food poisoning lawyersThis fall, food poisoning outbreaks have surged throughout the country, including recent E. coli outbreaks. The FDA and CDC have been busy investigating illnesses in this fall’s third multistate outbreak of E. coli. According to the CDC, infections have been reported in six states, with at least 12 people infected and five hospitalized and one-third of all reported cases coming from Illinois. The identified source, however, was distributed to 19 states and Puerto Rico, leaving a large number of people at risk of contracting food poisoning. At Newland & Newland, LLP, we fight for those who have fallen ill to foodborne illnesses as a result of food vendors’ negligence, including products sold in grocery stores across the nation.

The Source of the Outbreak

The recently released CDC notice connects the E. coli outbreak to a brand of romaine lettuce that is sold in grocery stores nationwide, including Walmart. The lettuce is sold under the name Tanimura & Antle, and the recalled lettuce was labeled with a “packed on” date of 10/15/2020 or 10/16/2020. The lettuce was lab tested by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the outbreak strain was identified in a sample of the company’s single-head romaine lettuce. Illinois holds the highest number of cases, with four recorded. Though the E. coli strain was found in the sampled lettuce, the CDC stated that they were unable to definitively determine whether the Tanimura & Antle romaine lettuce did indeed cause the illnesses. In order to protect consumers, those who have purchased the lettuce have been advised to avoid consuming the product.

Where Does the Bacteria Come From?

E. coli is typically transmitted through the consumption of contaminated foods, such as raw or undercooked meats, raw milk, and particular fruits and vegetables. The bacteria is due to fecal contamination. For fruits and vegetables, such as the lettuce listed above, the contamination is often due to contact with feces from domestic animals or wild animals during the plants’ cultivation. For both meat and produce, contaminated water can also be the culprit. Fecally contaminated water that is used during the food preparation process can lead to E. coli outbreaks upon consumption.

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Illinois Salad Producer Has Third Food Poisoning Incident in Last Three YearsThe number of people who have been affected by the cyclospora salad outbreak has increased since we last reported it in June. As of July 24, 641 people in 11 states are confirmed to have contracted cyclospora, as well as more than 100 other people in Canada. Illinois has been the state with the most people infected, with 241 reported cases. Dozens of people have been hospitalized but no one has died. The cyclospora outbreak was linked to garden salads produced by Fresh Express in its Streamwood, Illinois, facility. Fresh Express has recalled the packaged salads, which were sold under various names at Jewel-Osco, ALDI, Walmart, Giant Eagle, Hy-Vee, and ShopRite. The fact that this is the third food poisoning outbreak in three years connected to Fresh Express and its Streamwood facility gives an additional reason for concern.

2018 Cyclospora Outbreak

From May to July in 2018, 511 people from 15 states, including Illinois, contracted cyclospora after eating salads sold at McDonald’s restaurants in the Midwest. Fresh Express was the supplier for McDonald’s salads at the time, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that a package of romaine lettuce and carrots from the Streamwood facility had tested positive for cyclospora. McDonald’s stopped selling salads that it purchased from Fresh Express and switched to a different supplier.

2019 E. Coli Outbreak

In November 2019, 10 people from five states, including one from Illinois, contracted a strain of E. coli that the FDA believed originated from Fresh Express Sunflower Crisp chopped salad kits. The strain of E. coli was different from the strain in a concurrent incident involving contaminated romaine lettuce grown in California. The FDA was unable to determine which ingredient in the salad kit was contaminated and announced that the outbreak was over on Jan. 15.

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