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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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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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Chicago food poisoning attorneysEven though consumers in the United States expect the food products they purchase to be safe, the systems that are meant to protect against the spread of dangerous pathogens sometimes fail. When food that is tainted by viruses, bacteria, or other toxic substances is made available for purchase, this can result in food poisoning, which can cause long-lasting injuries to those who are affected. Salmonella is one of the most common sources of foodborne illnesses, and a variety of food products have been found to be contaminated by this bacteria. In 2020, one of the largest salmonella outbreaks was caused by peaches sold at grocery stores in multiple different states.

Recall of Prima Wawona Peaches

A multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis occurred between June and August of 2020. According to the CDC, 101 people in 17 states were infected, and while no deaths occurred, 28 people were hospitalized. These infections were traced to peaches packed and distributed by Prima Wawona and the Wawona Packing Company. This led the company to recall both bagged and loose peaches that had been distributed to grocery stores in multiple states. 

The recall included peaches sold nationwide at the following stores:

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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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