Did You Suffer a Foodborne Illness?
Each year in America, contaminated food causes more than nine million cases of illness, over 50,000 hospital visits, and more than 1,000 fatalities. In North Carolina, the Division of Public Health is the lead agency for investigation of such illnesses across the state.
If you’ve suffered illness or lost a loved one due to food contamination, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. To find out more about your legal rights and options, call the experienced attorneys at Rhine Law Firm, P.C. Dial for a free case evaluation.
Common Food-Related Diseases
Some of the more common foodborne and waterborne germs that cause illness in the U.S. include:
- Escherichia coli (E.coli)
- Hepatitis A & B
- Bacillus cereus
- Clostridium difficile (C. diff)
- Mushroom poisoning (mycetism)
- Staphylococcus aureus (often referred to as “staph”)
Food may be contaminated by a number of sources, including bacteria and viruses, parasites, mold, toxins, and allergens. Improper sanitization is what tends to create and spread foodborne illnesses.
Symptoms of Illness
Several foodborne illnesses take some time to incubate before symptoms are apparent. For example, in cases of E.coli, there may be a lapse of several days before symptoms appear. Common symptoms of foodborne illness include diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and other discomfort in the abdominal area.
Here are best practices to prevent food poisoning:
- Clean hands with soap and water before handling food
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly
- Use clean utensils when preparing food
- Cook foods thoroughly–particularly meats, eggs, etc.
- Promptly refrigerate leftover items
North Carolina Provisions Regarding Food Outbreaks
A state task force was set up to analyze the food systems in place. They publish a yearly report to outline proposed changes to improve food safety.
People or vendors who report possible cases of foodborne illness are generally protected from liability. Certain people have a duty to report these outbreaks, including doctors, restaurants, individuals who work in laboratories, or those responsible for children, such as teachers. The local health department director is then responsible for follow-up in these situations.
Potential for Civil Liability
Suppliers, manufacturers, and sellers of food products are responsible for maintaining reasonable food safety for consumers. As such, they can be held liable under NC’s product liability laws when their negligent practices end up harming consumers.
Those who experience a foodborne illness due to contaminated restaurant food or food products may have grounds for a civil claim to recover such losses as medical expenses and lost wages. In extreme cases where a foodborne illness caused death, the victim’s family may have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit.
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