Contaminated food causes thousands of cases of food poisoning every day. Whether canned, packaged, dried or fresh, toxins in tainted food can cause serious harm. Symptoms range from nausea and vomiting, to crippling abdominal distress, bloody stools, high fever, and in extreme cases, even death.
Poisoning from contaminated food isn’t the only danger we face. There are thousands of reported cases each year of foreign objects, such as bugs, shards of glass and plastic, metal wire, and other harmful materials found in store-bought food. In one infamous case, a severed finger was found in a can of tomato paste!
It goes without saying that consuming a foreign object can cause serious health problems, often requiring medical treatment, or even emergency surgery to remove the object.
If you or your family suffered food poisoning, or were injured after consuming a foreign object, you may be able to recoup your losses, otherwise known as damages. This includes reimbursement for your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and for the pain and suffering you endured.
The most common bacteria linked to food poisoning:
Clostridium botulinum (botulism) is found in the soil and fertilizer used to grow commercial food. When canned foods aren’t tightly sealed and oxygen seaps in, clostridium botulinum can quickly spread, becoming toxic. Symptoms include double vision, severe nausea, lethargy, droopy eyelids, trouble speaking and swallowing, and impaired breathing. It can be fatal in 3 to 10 days.
Salmonella is found in the intestinal tracts and feces of animals. It’s transmitted in undercooked or raw eggs, poultry, dairy products, meats, and seafood. Most salmonella bacteria is eliminated when the food is properly cooked, but other strains can survive the hottest temperatures.
Symptoms include headaches, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, chills, cold sweats, and fever. They appear 6 to 48 hours after eating, and can last up to two days.
Escherichia coli, commonly known as E. coli, is found in raw milk, eggs, and other dairy products. The bacteria can also be found in unchlorinated water, in the intestinal tracts of animals, and in the juice of meats and poultry. It’s easily transferred from one food product to another.
E.coli is frequently found in kitchen areas of restaurants, where it multiplies quickly. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and lethargy; they appear 24 to 48 hours after eating, and last 7 to 10 days.
Do you have a case?
Sometimes, tracing your illness back to contaminated food can be easy: that jar of expired mayonnaise, the undercooked eggs, or the chicken left unwrapped in the refrigerator. Other times, it can be almost impossible. How can you know which food was the culprit if you ate several times before getting sick? Worse, you may have thrown out the can or wrapping containing traces of the bacteria.
While reported cases of rodents, bugs, metal, and crumbled glass in food are not uncommon, foreign objects are usually discovered before the food is consumed. Most people are disgusted by what they see, but are not otherwise harmed.
In some cases, people do swallow the object. These people need emergency medical treatment to have their stomachs pumped, or surgery to remove the glass, metal, or other object stuck in their digestive tract.
The deciding factor…
To file a personal injury claim, you must have a real injury, and proof linking your injury to the contaminated food. Your injury must be more serious than disgust at the sight of a foreign object, or a day of nausea and diarrhea from mild food poisoning.
Without a combination of medical bills and other legitimate losses, your choices may be limited to complaining to the manager or writing a nasty letter to the manufacturer. In return, you may receive a few coupons, or an agreement to exchange the tainted food item for another, which is all you’re entitled to by law.
The Manufacturer and the Supermarket
In a food injury claim, the manufacturer and the supermarket where you purchased the food may be individually and collectively responsible for your injuries.
For serious injuries, you’ll need strong evidence. This can include the can or packaging from the tainted food, or any of the remaining food, and photographs of the food item and packaging. If you ingested a foreign object, you’ll need x-rays, and copies of all related medical records.
You’ll also need receipts for your out-of-pocket expenses, such as prescriptions, hospital parking fees, and more. Next, speak with your employer; ask for a letter (on company letterhead) verifying the dates and times you were absent from work.
Witness statements from non-family members will also help. Ask witnesses to write down and describe how you suffered after ingesting the contaminated food. If your witnesses were also poisoned from the same food, have them confirm that in their statements. They should sign and date each page.
Before filing a contaminated food injury claim, be sure you didn’t contribute to your own injury. For example, you left mayonnaise-based potato salad out on the picnic table during a summer barbecue, then got a bad case of food poisoning. If your own negligence was wholly or partially responsible for your injuries, you won’t have a strong case.
To have a legitimate claim against the seller or manufacturer of a food item, you must be able to show the item was contaminated when you purchased it. If not, you’ll have a tough time winning your claim.
The Role of Attorneys
Pursuing a serious food poisoning or foreign object injury claim takes the expertise of a well-seasoned attorney. Personal injury attorneys can take depositions of food manufacturing representatives and employees, issue subpoenas for company records, and file lawsuits – all actions you can’t take on your own.
Serious food contamination cases often require substantial amounts of money to prove. Attorneys pay these costs up front, out of their own pocket. You don’t have to pay any money until, and unless your attorney settles your case or wins it at trial. Then your attorney takes a percentage of the amount you’re awarded.
You only have one opportunity to succeed in a personal injury claim. Don’t squander it by trying to take on a food manufacturer or supermarket on your own. Get an attorney.
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Visitor Questions on Product Liability
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