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Chicago foodborne illness injury lawyerThere are many reasons why foods served at restaurants can become contaminated by infectious diseases or other toxic substances. Workers may not follow the correct sanitary procedures, such as fully washing their hands, cleaning surfaces where foods are prepared, and ensuring that food is stored properly. These issues can result in contaminations that may cause food poisoning, and foodborne illnesses can also occur if foods are not fully cooked. The risks of food poisoning were illustrated recently in a case that took place in Bloomington, Illinois.

At Least 16 People Affected by Foodborne Illness

On April 7, 2021, the McLean County Health Department (MCHD) received reports from personnel at Illinois State University that a number of people had symptoms indicating food poisoning. The MCHD did not state how many people were affected or where the infections were believed to have occurred. However, later reports stated that at least 16 people were affected, and 15 of those were members of the university’s lacrosse team. The reports also identified a Jimmy John’s restaurant in Bloomington as the probable source of food poisoning, and this restaurant has closed while the investigation is ongoing.

The MCHD has not yet identified the specific illness that affected the restaurant’s customers. Several of the people who contracted illnesses were hospitalized due to severe vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms are consistent with food poisoning that may have been caused by bacteria or viruses such as:

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illinois food poisoning lawyerMany different types of foodborne illnesses can affect people who eat foods contaminated by bacteria, viruses, or other toxins. Salmonella is one of the most common causes of food poisoning, and outbreaks of this disease occur more frequently than many people realize. The dangers of this disease were demonstrated recently in two cases where products contaminated with salmonella caused people in multiple states to suffer illnesses and hospitalizations.

Foods Contaminated With Salmonella

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has investigated two separate salmonella outbreaks in recent months. The first was related to ground turkey produced and sold by Plainville Brands, LLC, a company located in Pennsylvania. Products with the brand names of Nature’s Promise, Wegman, and Plainville Farms were found to be contaminated. The specific products that were affected were produced in December of 2020 and distributed with expiration dates between January 1 and January 10, 2021. Consumers who purchased products during those dates may have frozen them for later use. Freezing does not kill salmonella, so consumers are still at risk of infection when thawing and eating or handling these products.

The other salmonella outbreak was related to dairy products manufactured by Jule’s Foods, a company in California. Products that were recalled due to contamination include cashew brie cheese, spinach artichoke dip, and vegan ranch dressing. Investigators found salmonella in these products on April 22, 2021, and products with all expiration dates have been recalled.

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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 food poisoning attorneysThere are multiple ways that people can suffer injuries after consuming foods or food products. In many cases, injuries occur because of foodborne illnesses that cause food poisoning. However, people can also suffer serious harm if they have an allergic reaction to certain foods. It may be possible to hold a restaurant, grocery store, or manufacturer of food products liable for these types of injuries if it can be demonstrated that they acted negligently or did not take the proper measures to protect people’s safety. For example, a person may suffer an allergic reaction if they were not informed that a dish or product contained ingredients that could cause them harm, or cross-contamination may occur at a restaurant or grocery store, causing a person to be exposed to a harmful allergen.

Common Food Allergies and Allergic Reactions

While there are many different types of foods that can cause allergic reactions, some food allergies that commonly affect people in the United States include:

  • Milk, which is included in dairy products such as cheese, butter, yogurt, and ice cream
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts and tree nuts, including cashews, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and pine nuts
  • Fish and shellfish, including shrimp, lobster, crayfish, and scallops
  • Wheat
  • Soy

Food allergies can range from mild to severe, and their effects can vary depending on the amount of a food a person consumes and the way their body reacts to it. Some allergies may cause abdominal pain and cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, while others may cause rashes, hives, and itching on different parts of the body, or a person may become dizzy or lightheaded. In more serious cases, an allergic reaction may cause swelling in the tongue, mouth, or throat, which can affect a person’s ability to breathe, or a person may experience low blood pressure or shortness of breath.

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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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