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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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Jimmy John’s Receives FDA Warning About Contaminated ProduceThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to the sandwich restaurant chain Jimmy John’s, claiming that the franchise has repeatedly purchased adulterated produce. The FDA identified sprouts and cucumbers as the adulterated products and cited five outbreaks of E. coli or salmonella linked to the restaurants since 2012. Though Jimmy John’s removed sprouts from its stores as a precautionary measure, the FDA said the franchise needs to take corrective action to prevent such outbreaks from continuing to occur. E. coli and salmonella infections can be potentially fatal to young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

What Is Adulterated Produce?

Adulterating food normally refers to adding or replacing ingredients in a food product that may cause harm to those who consume it. For instance, a food manufacturer may replace a natural ingredient in its product with an artificial one, which causes people to become sick upon eating it. In the Jimmy John’s case, the E. coli and salmonella are not artificial ingredients but poisonous substances that have contaminated the produce. Though the producer did not intentionally add the contaminants, it still meets the legal definition of adulterated because there is enough of the contaminant to cause harm.

History of Outbreaks

The FDA accused Jimmy John’s of lacking the control mechanisms to prevent it from continuing to purchase contaminated produce. As previously referenced, the FDA cited five recent food poisoning cases:

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Illinois food poisoning injury attorneyHealth is one of the most important things in life, and most of us do whatever we can to stay in good physical condition. The foods we consume play a large role in our physical health, and sometimes, food poisoning can happen if certain foods are not prepared properly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 48 million people in America become sick from various types of food poisoning every year, and 128,000 of these cases result in hospitalization. Foodborne illnesses can be fatal, and anyone who prepares food should take the following steps to avoid the risk of infection:

  • Wash hands and clean cooking surfaces: Germs on an individual’s hands can spread to countertops and utensils, so it is important to wash one’s hands before cooking. Also, fruits and vegetables should be washed to remove any residual dirt or germs.
  • Keep raw food separate: Several types of bacteria can be found in raw meat and vegetables, with E. Coli being the most common. When preparing food, raw meat should be fully cooked before it is incorporated with the rest of the meal.
  • Cook to the correct temperature: All meats have an internal temperature they should be cooked to in order to kill the bacteria within. A meat thermometer should be used to ensure that the meat is cooked to the proper temperature.
  • Keep perishable foods in a refrigerator: Meats and dairy products are examples of perishable foods that should be stored in a refrigerator before and after a meal is prepared. Keeping perishables in a room temperature environment nurtures bacteria growth and increases the risk of food poisoning.

How Can I Protect Myself When Dining Out?

Thanks to the internet, consumers are able to read reviews about a certain restaurant before dining there. Other patrons can post reviews for future diners to make sure the establishment is clean and the food is prepared properly. When at a restaurant, consumers can protect themselves by:

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