Foodborne Illness | Food Poisoning Lawsuit

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Foodborne Illness and Injuries

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Foodborne illness is a common occurrence in the headlines, as hundreds of companies recall food and beverage products every year due to a variety of contaminations. But while we see a multitude of different product pulled from shelves on a regular basis, food contamination is a serious problem that can spark severe health problems, illness, and even death. Despite the problems associated with unsanitary food handling, food poisoning is a common occurrence. Most cases of food poisoning, however, don’t require a lawsuit. These cases are difficult to prove in court, but not impossible. Victims of foodborne illness and injuries need to acquire a significant amount in medical bills in order to pursue an institution for negligence. If you suffered severe food poisoning and ended up in the hospital, contact a qualified food poisoning attorney.

The Carlson Law Firm has 40 years of experience representing victims of foodborne illness. An experienced food poisoning attorney from our firm can help you prove improper food handling practices led to your illness and injuries.

What Causes Foodborne Illness?

Foodborne illness, or food poisoning, is the result of consuming contaminated foods or beverages. Contamination can occur in a variety way and be the result of any number of microbes or pathogens that contaminate foods. A variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites cause most instances of food poisoning. However, food or drinks contaminated with harmful toxins or chemicals can also lead to foodborne illness.

Typically, foodborne illness can be traced to:

  • Viruses and bacteria
  • Improper handling, storage or preparation of food
  • Toxic chemicals present in food, such as high levels of mercury
  • Natural toxins present in food such as mold or poisonous mushrooms

Sometimes, symptoms can be the result of a person’s food allergy. Equally, some cases of foodborne illness occur through recreational or drinking water, contact with animals or their environment or through person-to-person contact. Consulting with a medical professional will help determine the cause of your illness. In addition, it will help you prove what parties can be held liable for your injuries.

If you or a loved one suffered a foodborne illness in a restaurant or other contaminated food items, contact a food poisoning attorney from The Carlson Law Firm. We can help you determine if filing a food poisoning lawsuit is the right step for you.

How Does Food Contamination Occur?

Food contamination occurs when a bacteria, virus or toxin gets into food that shouldn’t be there. While many scenarios might cause contamination, contamination generally falls under one of four categories.

Biological Contamination

Biological contamination occurs when the contaminant is a microorganism. Generally, these hazards include bacteria, viruses, yeasts, molds and parasites. Some of these are pathogens or may produce toxins. When these pathogens or toxins are present, they can make a human sick.

In ideal conditions, bacteria can split and multiply very quickly. For example, one, single bacteria can multiply to upwards of two million in just seven hours. Some bacteria such as salmonella, staphylococcus, and listeria are extremely toxic to humans just by themselves. But sometimes, the process by which bacteria multiply and produce waste is what sickens people.

Food handlers at every stage of the food production chain have a responsibility to minimize the spread and growth of bacteria.

Common bacteria and viruses known to cause foodborne illness include the following:

  • Salmonella
  • Vibrio
  • E. Coli
  • Giardia Lamblia
  • Hepititis A
  • Shigella
  • Clostridium botulinum
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Campylobacter jejuni
  • Norovirus
  • Cryptospordia
  • Staphylococcus
  • Listeria
  • Toxoplasma gondii
  • Bacillus cereus
  • Calicivirus (also called Norwalk-like virus)

Chemical Contamination

Chemical contamination occurs when food comes into contact with chemicals. Common sources of contamination include:

Kitchen cleaning supplies. Improper storage of cleaning supplies in the kitchen can lead to chemicals leaking into food. Never keep food stored in the same place as your cleaning supplies. Further, always use cleaning products designed specifically for kitchen use.

Unwashed produce. Fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides and fungicides. While these agents help produce grow free from disease or pests, they can be harmful if consumed. It’s is vital to wash all fruits and vegetables before consuming.

Food containers. Some plastic containers are single-use items. Always store food in containers that specially designed for reuse.

Pest control products. Items like spray and rat poison are incredibly hazardous if consumed. Similar to cleaning supplies, you should always store these items away from food items.

Chemicals used in equipment cleaning and maintenance. Ensure that any kitchen equipment or surfaces used to prepare food is free and clear of chemicals. This is particularly true for equipment with moving parts such as slicers and mixers—which can require regular oiling. Use food safe-oils to make sure the food you prepare isn’t contaminated.

Physical Contamination

Physical contamination occurs when actual objects contaminate foods. Notably, physical contamination may also lead to biological contamination. For example, finding a fingernail or cockroach in your food is dangerous because either may carry bacteria that can make you extremely sick.

The most common physical contaminations include:

  • Hair
  • Glass or metal
  • Pests
  • Pest droppings
  • Jewelry
  • Dirt
  • Fingernails


Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria and pathogens are transported from one item to another. There are several ways cross contamination may occur:

Clothing. Dirty clothes can transport bacteria from one surface to another. Clothing should be replaced when moving from one work area to another and hands should be thoroughly washed.

Utensils. Separate utensils should always be used when preparing food. For example, never use the same chopping board or knife to prepare raw meat and ready-to-eat foods.

Personal hygiene. Coughing, sneezing, or touching your face and hair before handling food may lead to cross-contamination. Practicing regular handwashing is essential to preventing foodborne illness.

Pests. Flies, cockroaches, rats, and other pests carry harmful bacteria. If left unchecked, these pests can transport bacteria from one place to another. Pest control is vital to every station of the food production chain.

Raw food. Proper storage of raw food is another first line of defense against cross-contamination. When raw food comes into contact with cooked or ready-to-eat food, pathogens may contaminate the food. Raw food should always be covered and stored below cooked foods to prevent this type of contamination.

Waste control. Sealing garbage and keeping it away from other kitchen or food items will ensure it never comes into contact with food preparation. Sanitizing waste bins regularly should be carried out to prevent the risk of pest infestation.


As one of the more common types of food poisoning, which has been emerging among food products at a staggering rate, Salmonella is a bacterium that is often associated with animal products. But while it is a commonly occurring bacterium among birds, reptiles, and mammals, the dangerous contagion has been seen more and more among non-animal products, like contaminated peanut butter, spinach and nuts. People with weak immune systems, such as children and elderly, are at a particular risk of serious complications associated with Salmonella contamination. Symptoms include; fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and life-threatening infection.

Who is most at-risk for a Salmonella outbreak?

According to the FDA, children are the most likely to get salmonellosis. The rate at which children less than five years old are diagnosed with salmonellosis is higher than all other groups. Children younger than five, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe infections.

It is estimated that 400 people in the U.S. die each year with acute salmonellosis.

2018 Outbreaks

In June 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told retails not to sell any Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal and customers not to buy or eat it. Salmonella was present in the cereal and by September 2018 led to more than 130 cases in 36 states of people sickened by the cereal. Illness linked to the cereal were reported in March 2018 and affected a child less than one years old to those as old as 95 years old. More than 30 people have been hospitalized as a result of the cereal’s contamination.

Severe E. Coli 

Despite a number of dangers associated with an array of contaminants related to foods we consume each day, E. Coli is particularly dangerous because of the severe illness associated. Often related to a pathogen found in cattle reservoirs, food contaminated by feces, even in the tiniest amounts, can be fatal, especially for children and those with weak immune systems. Kidney failure, extreme bleeding and anemia can result from consumption or exposure to E. Coli, and increasing numbers of contamination cases have provoked attention among lawmakers and advocates regarding overhauls of the food and agriculture industries.

2018 Outbreaks

On April 10, 2018, the CDC, FDA and several state agencies became aware of a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. The outbreak was related to eating romaine lettuce. By June 2018, 2010 people were infected with the specific strain of E. coli related to the outbreak.

What are the Symptoms of Food Poisoning?

While there are several ways food poisoning can occur, symptoms are relatively consistent. Food poisoning symptoms may be confused with stomach flu or stomach bug symptoms. However, these two illnesses differ in incubation period and symptoms.

Differences in Stomach Bugs and Foodborne Illness

Food poisoning leads to various complications that can land you in the hospital. If you’ve incurred significant medical bills because of food mishandling, contact The Carlson Law Firm. Schedule your free consultation with a food poisoning attorney at our firm to discuss your case.

High-Risk Groups

While contaminated food can make anyone sick, certain groups are at an increased risk for getting sick or severely sick from exposure. Typically how ill you become depends on the amount of exposure, your age and your health. High-risk groups include:

  • Pregnant women. A pregnant woman’s body changes in various ways. For example, changes in metabolism and circulation may increase the risk of food poisoning. A pregnant woman may get sicker in early pregnancy. In rare instances, the baby may get sick too.
  • Elderly adults. As you age, your immune system weakens. Because of this, your immune system may not respond as quickly, or effectively, to infectious organisms.
  • Infants and young children. As mentioned, the immune systems of infants and young children under five haven’t fully developed.
  • People with chronic disease. Chronic conditions, such as diabetes, liver disease, AIDS or receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer reduces the efficiency of your immune system.

If you or a loved one suffered a foodborne illness, contact The Carlson Law Firm. We have a qualified food poisoning attorney who can help you file a food poisoning lawsuit and prove negligence.

Possible Complications of Food Poisoning

The most common complication of food poisoning is dehydration. Dehydration is the severe loss of water and essential salts and minerals. In most healthy adults who get plenty of fluids, dehydration shouldn’t be a problem. However, in infants, children under five, older adults and people with suppressed immune systems or chronic illnesses, the chances of dehydration are more severe. This can occur when the affected person is unable to take in enough fluids to replace those lost through vomiting and diarrhea.

In more severe cases of food poisoning, a person may need to be hospitalized and receive intravenous fluids. Further, in extreme cases, dehydration can be fatal.

Both Listeria monocytogenes and Escherichia coli (E. Coli) are two types of food poisoning that can have potentially serious complication for certain people.

  • Listeria monocytogenes. Complications from listeria are most severe for unborn babies. A listeria infection may lead to miscarriage in early pregnancy. In later pregnancy, a listeria infection may lead to stillbirth, premature birth or potentially fatal infection in the baby after birth. These complications can arise even if the mother was only mildly ill. Further, infants who survive a listeria infection may experience long-term neurological damage and delayed development.
  • E. Coli. Some strains of E. coli can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome. This disease damages the lining of the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys. The condition sometimes leads to kidney failure. Older adults, children young than five and people with weakened immune systems have a higher risk of developing this complication. If you or a loved one is one of these risks categories, see your doctor at the first sign of profuse or bloody diarrhea.

If you incurred tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills reach out to a food poisoning attorney today.

How to Prevent Foodborne Illnesses

Foodborne illnesses can spread through a variety of ways. But there are several steps you can take to prevent getting yourself and others from getting sick. To prevent food poisoning at home:

Wash your hands, utensils and food surfaces often. Avoid contamination by using warm soapy water before, during and after handling or preparing food. Clean utensils, cutting boards and countertops with hot, soapy water.

Keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods.

Cook foods to a safe temperature. Purchase a food thermometer. In most instances, by cooking foods to the right temperature, you can kill harmful organisms.

Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods right away. Properly store food within two hours of purchasing or preparing them.

Defrost food safely. Never thaw food at room temperature. The safest way to thaw food is to defrost it in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can microwave frozen food on the defrost setting, but be sure to cook it immediately.

Throw away questionable food. Food left out at room temperature too long may contain bacteria or toxins that can’t be destroyed by cooking. Don’t taste food that you’re unsure about. When in doubt. Throw it out.

Take extra precautions to avoid contamination when handling the following food items:

  • Raw or rare meat and poultry
  • Raw or undercooked fish or shellfish, such as oysters, clams, mussels and scallops.
  • Undercooked or raw eggs, including foods that contain them such as cookie dough and homemade ice cream
  • Raw sprouts, such as alfalfa, bean, clover and radish sprouts
  • Unpasteurized juices and ciders
  • Unpasteurized milk and milk products
  • Soft cheese, such as feta, Brie and Camembert, blue-veined cheese and unpasteurized cheese
  • Refrigerated pates and meat spreads
  • Undercooked lunch meats, deli meants and hotdogs

Using Precaution when Eating at a Restaurant

Restaurant grades are a great place to start when it comes to dining out. Although they are a great way to ensure a restaurant is doing everything it can to keep its patrons safe, it does not guarantee safety. Health inspections typically occur once a year. And in between inspections, restaurants are capable of violating all sorts of safety practices.

Generally, there are some measures you can take to avoid foodborne illness in restaurants:

  • Be selective in where you eat. This is especially important if you have a disease that makes recovering from an infection difficult, such as diabetes. Heed the warnings of others and check your county or city’s inspection log. Doing these two things can save you from serious illness and possible medical bills if you get too sick.
  • Smell your food. Even after its cooked, spoiled food will have a putrid smell. If your meal isn’t aromatic and delicious, send it back.
  • Order popular items on the menu. Turnover on the items are typically high. This means your food hasn’t been sitting in the fridge for too long.
  • Avoid buffets. Buffets are extremely dangerous. Food needs to be kept hot and comes at a huge risk when it is kept lukewarm. Lukewarm food allows bacteria to multiply which can make you extremely sick.
  • Avoid salad bars too. A 2013 study from the CDC found that leafy greens are the most common culprit behind food poisoning. While a salad bar may seem like the logical choice for a healthy lunch, it might be best to just make a salad at home.

Contact an experienced food poisoning attorney if you suffer a foodborne illness from restaurant negligence. We can help you file a food poisoning lawsuit.

Dangerous Food Recalls

Although entities like the Food and Drug Administration have been created to monitor the safety of foods and beverages available to consumers, the FDA is no stranger to the controversy associated with foodborne illness and contamination associated with negligent food manufacturing and food-related processes. In fact, in 2007, the FDA was accused of mishandling a previous outbreak of peanut butter salmonella contamination. A peanut butter plant in Georgia and a Spinach processing plant in California were found to have produced and processed contaminated food products that made hundreds of people sick and even resulted in death. According to some advocates, the FDA mishandled the instances of Salmonella in both products, leaving investigations, which may have halted contamination, incomplete

In late October 2015, officials in Washington and Oregon detected an increase in illness and after interviewing ill people, they determined that illness was likely linked to eating at multiple Chipotle Mexican Grill locations. Following the outbreak, Chipotle Mexican Grill closed 43 restaurants both Washington and Oregon in early November 2015 in response to the initial outbreak. All restaurants later reopened.

Some of the foods recalled for contamination of Salmonella and E. Coli include; salmonella-contaminated ground turkey, salmonella in spinach, bagged salads contaminated with salmonella, salmonella-tainted peanut butter, pine nuts, eggs, chicken and many other recalled foods. In addition to foodborne illnesses, some conditions, disease and even death, may be sparked by the consumption of contaminated water.

How can a Food Poisoning Attorney Help?

Food poisoning cases are complex civil lawsuits. To have standing in court, you will need to prove a restaurant or manufacturer is responsible for your illness and thus responsible for your subsequent medical bills. A qualified food poisoning attorney from The Carlson Law Firm can help you file a lawsuit against the proper parties.

A Carlson Law Firm food poisoning attorney can help you recover the compensation you deserve. Damage recovery includes:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Lost income
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

If you lost a loved one from restaurant or distributor negligence that led to death from food poisoning, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Contact a Carlson Law Firm food poisoning attorney to discuss your option.

Call The Carlson Law Firm Today

If you or someone you love has endured serious illness or death as a result of foodborne illnesses and contamination of food products caused by the negligence of food manufacturers, call our food poisoning attorney or visit one of our 11 office locations throughout Texas. Even though we are headquartered in Texas, our lawyers are currently accepting food contamination cases nationwide. An experienced food poisoning attorney, as well as our investigative team, professional consultants and caring staff, will help you uncover answers to the questions surrounding your serious illness while helping you seek just compensation for your injuries and loss.

Schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with a qualified food poisoning attorney today.

We have an experienced food poisoning attorney who can analyze your case and explore your legal options. We have been protecting the rights of Texans for more than 40 years and have a history of success. Our attorneys will fight on your behalf to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free, no obligation consultation. We care. We can help

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