Food Poisoning

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Food borne illness, more commonly known as food poisoning, is caused from eating food that is contaminated with bacteria, parasites or viruses. The illnesses range from upset stomach to more serious symptoms, including diarrhea, fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and dehydration. Although most food poisoning goes unreported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every year about 76 million people in the United States become ill from food poisoning. Of these, about 5,000 die.

The most common cause of food poisoning is bacteria and there are a million different ways that the bacteria can contaminate your food. Some may be present on foods when you purchase them, remember that raw foods are not sterile. Raw meat and poultry may become contaminated during slaughter. Seafood may become contaminated during harvest or through processing. Eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella inside the egg shell. Produce can become contaminated with E. coli. Contamination can occur during growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping, or final preparation. Contamination may also occur during food preparation in the restaurant or in the person's kitchen.

When food is cooked and left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature, bacteria multiply very fast. Because they do not produce an odor or change the color or texture of the food, the bacterium often goes unnoticed. Freezing food slows or stops bacteria's growth but does not destroy the bacterium that is already present. The microbes can become reactivated when the food is thawed. Refrigeration may slow the growth of some bacteria, but thorough cooking is needed to destroy the bacteria.

Most cases of Food Poisoning can be prevented through proper cooking and processing of food, which kills bacteria. Because bacteria multiply rapidly between 40°F and 140°F, food must be kept out of this "danger zone."

To prevent harmful bacteria from growing in food it is important to:

  • Refrigerate foods right away. If you let prepared food stand at room temperature for more than 2 hours, it may not be safe to eat.
  • Cook food to the appropriate temperature (145°F for roasts, steaks, and chops of beef, veal, and lamb; 160°F for pork, ground veal, and ground beef; 165°F for ground poultry; and 180°F for whole poultry). Foods are properly cooked only when they are heated long enough and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause food poisoning.
  • Prevent cross-contamination. Bacteria can spread from one food product to another throughout the kitchen and can get onto cutting boards, knives, sponges, and countertops. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from other foods that are ready to eat.
  • Handle food properly. Always wash your hands before touching food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets, as well as after handling raw meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, or eggs. Clean surfaces well before preparing food on them.
  • Keep cold food cold and hot food hot.
  • Maintain hot cooked food at 140°F or higher.
  • Reheat cooked food to at least 165°F.
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food, and leftovers within 2 hours.
  • Never defrost food on the kitchen counter.
  • Never let food marinate at room temperature; refrigerate it.

Have you or someone you know been the victim of food poisoning? An experienced attorney can help you. Contact a Product Liability Lawyer today!


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