Each year, an estimated 48 million Americans – or one in six – suffer from food poisoning. Of these people, 130,000 are hospitalized and 6,000 die.
A 2011 listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupes grown in Colorado was the deadliest in the country’s history, sickening 150 people in 28 states and killing 33. A recent study identifies leafy greens as the largest source of food-borne contamination, followed by fresh vegetables and fruit.
Milk, cheese and other dairy products are also a common source of food poisoning. This risk is rising steadily with the current popularity of unpasteurized raw milk and cheeses.
Causes of Foodborne Illness
Harmful bacteria are the most common cause of foodborne illness. Most cases are never reported, but of the reported cases 90 percent are due to seven pathogens: salmonella, norovirus, campylobacter, toxoplasma, E. coli, listeria and clostridium perfringens. Of these, norovirus is the most common and listeria the most lethal.
Food-borne illnesses can be prevented by properly handling, preparing and storing food. They are most deadly to the elderly, the newborn, those with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women and their fetuses.
Food Safety Modernization Act
The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in January 2011, is the first overhaul of U.S. food safety laws in more than 70 years. The FSMA shifts the focus of federal regulators from reacting to deadly outbreaks of food-borne illness to preventing them.
In January 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed the most sweeping food-safety rules in decades. The FDA estimates that these new rules could prevent almost 2 million illnesses each year. It could be several years before these rules actually take effect.
The FSMA requires new safety plans from food companies during processing, better standards for fresh produce, and more vigilance of importers (who provide 80 percent of U.S. seafood).
The new rules require that farmers raising crops intended for raw consumption take new precautions against contamination. These include making sure that field workers have access to toilet facilities where they can wash their hands, that irrigation water is clean and free of animal run-off, and that animals are prevented from entering fields where crops are grown.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding who is responsible for your food-borne illness can be complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a personal injury lawyer.